travel writer, novelist, and short‐story writer, born in Medford, Massachusetts, and educated at the University of Massachusetts. His name was made by a series of vivid travel books, written with all the instincts of a novelist, about epic railway journeys: The Great Railway Bazaar (1975), describing a journey across Europe and Russia to Japan; The Old Patagonian Express (1978); and Riding the Iron Rooster (1988), an account of a journey through China. In The Kingdom by the Sea (1983) he turned to the coastline of Britain, his adopted home for many years, while The Happy Isles of Oceania (1992) describes a voyage across the South Pacific.
He has also produced novels including, including The Black Horse (1974), about an English anthropologist returning from Africa; The Family Arsenal (1976), a thriller set in the London underworld; Doctor Slaughter (1984); The Mosquito Coast (1982, also filmed) in which an American engineer seeks a new life in Honduras; My Secret History (1989); O‐Zone (1986), a dystopian fantasy; Millroy the Magician (1993); The Pillars of Hercules (1995), My Other Life (1996), an ‘imaginary memoir’, and Hotel Honolulu (2001). Both The Consul's File (1977) and The London Embassy (1982) are collections of episodic short stories dealing with expatriate communities. Collected Stories was published in 1995. Sir Vidia's Shadow: A Friendship across Five Continents (1998) charts the decline of his personal relationship with V. S. Naipaul.