Novelists don't just write books; they also write itineraries. Consider the case of Colleen McMullough, the woman from Australia who sat down and wrote a 530-page book called "The Thorn Birds" which sold 8 million copies in North America.
That ought to have been enough to keep the most restless writer quiet. But, no. She then sat down and wrote a endetailed three-page itinerary outlining a tour of Thorn Bird country-northeastern Australia. O bring it to life, Qantas, the U-less airline, has organized 17-day tours of Queensland following the route that McCullough laid out.
It's larynx-tangler, taking the traveler to places like Goondiwindi (stay at the Goondiwindi Motel), and to Collarenbi and Coonabarabran and Warrumbungles. The trouble with Australian place names is that you can't write a love song about them; you have write a book. I mean, who is going to get mushy over a song called April in Warrumbungles?
McCullough's idea, or Qantas's-I'm not sure who had it first-is bound to start a fad.Consider the possibilities. Michener's tour of the Chesapeake, an excursion through the Eastern Shore of Maryland where the Choptank River drops into Chesapeake Bay. Travelers cruising through Maryland could recall such passages from Michener's best-selling "Chesapeake" as this:
"When they reached the broad mouth of the Choptank, Hugo steered toward that loveliest of eastern rivers, the Red Avon: a broad, quiet estuary, a group of exquisite estuaries and innumerable coves, each with its own superb view . . . one well-preserved house after another, not ostentatious but most attractive hiding among tall trees."
And there is vintage Michener, too-Hawaii, Iberia, Colorado, to say nothing of the South Pacific,the site of the book that started Michener's fictionalized atlas of the world.
Why not Leon Uris sketching tours of Ireland so painstakingly described in "Trinity"? Or Thomas Hoving, who burst upon the best-seller list with the timely "untold story" of Tutankhamon, the boy king whose take had been lying there all these years. Hoving's tour of Egypt might prove a ducat as hard to get as one to visit the exhibit in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.
How about Lauren Bacall's tour of Hollywood? Or Jill Robinson's, who wrote of it so tellingly in "Perdido," last year's winner? Lucian Truscott IV, the graduate of the United States Military Academy who wrote of it in "Dress Gray," can sketch out a tour of West Point, that lovely glen high above the Hudson which Benedict Arnold once tried to sell to the British.
If Colleen McCullough can write itineraries for Qantas, why not Teddy White's China-the China he knew when he arrived there as a Chinese-speaking Harvard graduate and stayed to become a star correspondent for Time-Life?
White's best seller, "It Search of History," also performs exquisitely for Paris and the south of France. Could one do better than the Sunday in Paris that he describes:
"I went to the magic cheese store of Courtois just beyond the Etoile, where Camembert cheeses, selected for their perfect ripeness each week, were displayed to greet the churchgoers coming home from Sunday mass; then to the baker on the rule de Berri for the butter-drenched croissants; then to the Russian stalls in the sixteenth arroundisement . . . then out to the Flea Market to browse in winter . . . And at night if one wanted . . . one could go to a cellar cafe on the Left Bank to sing with young French people.
Those who are not eaters or even francophilic sybarites might be enticed by James Fixx's "Jogging Tour of Europe," a trip fashioned by the man who invented running. Passionate joggers have told me of getting up in the darkness of pre-dawn China to run streets of ancient Cathay. Strange to say, Chinese joy, too.
The Thorn Bird tours avoid the Australian summer and the short Australian winter. April, May and June are the Australian autumn and September, October and November are the Australian spring. The 8 million owners of Thorn Bird books can see it all come alive, such as this form McCullough:
"Kangaroos, more than ever. Lovely little symmetrical wilgas, round and matronly, almost coy. Galahs soaring in pink waves of undersides above the truck. Emus at full run. Rabbits, hopping out of the road with white powder puffs flushing cheekily. Bleached skeletons of dead trees in the grass. Mirages of timber stand on the far curving horizon . . . And the grass, the silver-beige grass of the Great Northwest, stretching to the sky like a benediction."
What travel folder writer can beat that? Perhaps it was the Israelis who caught the idea first. It was they who came up with the slogan, "Israel, land of the Bible. If you liked the book, you'll love the country."