cover image Smile When You're Lying: Confessions of a Rogue Travel Writer

Smile When You're Lying: Confessions of a Rogue Travel Writer

Chuck Thompson, . . Holt, $14 (324pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-8209-8

Travel writers lie, argues Thompson, and their editors not only know and excuse it, but demand it. As laid out in this vivid and ribald memoir by veteran travel writer Thompson—a former editor of Maxim and's short-lived print magazine—the industry is packed to the rafters with hacks churning out the same reheated swill for thinly disguised advertorial copy in glossy magazines. Sick of “leaving the most interesting material on the cutting-room floor,” Thompson slashes through the clichés of the travel industry's snake-oil salesmen with unmitigated glee. The Caribbean is “a miasmic hellscape.” The supposed narcoterrorist danger zone, Colombia, is a wonderful place with wonderful people (“But who buys magazines to read that?”). And the widely respected Lonely Planet guidebooks have ruined more travel destinations than have the tourists its writers sermonize against. If all Thompson was aiming for had been caustic observations about the industry he knows from the inside out, the book would have been an amusing but limited experience. But Thompson weaves his take on the travel racket and the damage it does into an engagingly personal narrative about his own nomadic life, tossing out raucous anecdotes about teaching ESL in a remote Japanese town or snorting cocaine with fellow staffers in the Alaska House of Representatives. (Dec.)