The Moon's a Balloon

The Moon's a Balloon

First published in Page Turner Oxford Mail: Static HTML image by

I don't always read The Sunday Times but I'm glad I did this week as there were three rather fascinating stories.

The first came from the paper's archives. It was an interview with Henri Charriere, the author of Papillon, and was conducted in 1970.

In the piece, Charriere, who died in 1973 aged 66, rebuts all allegations that he made stuff up in his best-selling escape autobiography.

When I wasn't playing football or banging caps off the pavement, I spent many happy hours as a child reading Papillon.

There were no Playstations in those days, and I wasn't a massive fan of Etch-a-Sketch.

The paper also reports a row between the girlfriend of Swedish novelist Stieg Larsson and his family, over his £10m estate.

I've heard good things about The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo trilogy and I'm hoping my brother has got the first instalment for my birthday.

I'm seeing him next week when I visit Herefordshire for a trip to the Hay Festival, where I will fulfil a long-term ambition to meet TV presenter Clive James.

Revolt of the Pendulum, his latest collection of essays, landed on my desk this morning and I'm looking forward to reading a few extracts in the bath. I know they will make me laugh.

When I'm in Hereford, I will have a good look for my copy of Biggles of the Camel Squadron.

Last week, when I was in The Book Lover in Woodin's Way, I picked up an old Dean & Son edition of Biggles of 266 in battered red boards. It cost a fiver, and the stories have been going down a treat.

Capt WE Johns was a fighter pilot in the First World War, so the background to Biggles' exploits is always authentic.

Finally, the Sunday Times was running extracts from a new biography of David Niven.

I read and re-read the two parts of his autobiography when I was a youngster, and I know She Who Must Be Obeyed is quite a fan too.

Perhaps I will try to get hold of a copy of Michael Munn's book, David Niven: The Man Behind the Balloon, or I might just go back to Niven's own version of events. I think I've even got one of the books on a talking book CD.

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