John Summers


Road to Andamooka

article published in the Sunday Telegraph, 14 November 1965, under the headline ‘Writing the Poker Player's Way’

Our regular Mandrake contributor John Summers says that his book Road to Andamooka (Robert Hale, price 18s, ‘and bless you’) which was published last Wednesday, is part one of a four-part Thomas Woolfe-style saga, the next part to be Road to Fleet Street (after which he will not have many friends left in Fleet Street. But does he have any now?).

The final chapter of Road to Andamooka is unique anyway in that it was written in Johannesburg, the Congo, Rome and Paris – all on the same day. ‘In a Boeing 707 flying from S. Africa to London...’

During a ridiculous period of poverty in Toronto, Canada, ‘when trying to learn to write’, he was reduced to acting as afternoon sparring partner in a downtown boxing club and promised ‘if you’re a good boy, and go on putting on weight, you could even be meeting Rocky Marciano one day.’ And a Toronto Chinese fortune-teller forecast that he would meet Rocky Marciano and also win a Pulitzer Prize for writing.

Recently John Summers and Rocky Marciano did in fact meet. Summers v. Marciano in the Hilton Hotel in London. He’s now a journalist and Marciano an insurance agent, ‘so I’m looking forward to getting my Pulitzer Prize…’

Summers says his style of writing was given him by an old Canadian logger who had actually met Jack London, who confided in the logger: ‘Anyone who can play poker can write’ – and demonstrated his, Jack London’s, own method of literary composition. ‘An ingenious adaptation of the exact rules of poker play. For me it seems to work anyway...’

Summers says he wants to be like B. (Treasure of the Sierra Madre) Traven, another Robert Hale author. He wants to be as completely anonymous as possible, and believes that authors should be read and not seen, or even heard. ‘Like the Greeks said: If a writer was seen, only once seen by the people who read him, from that moment they began to doubt his worth. There’s too much prima donna stuff about authors anyway.’

The other three volumes of his Road quartet are written, but he is reluctant to let them too soon into print.

Summers lives high on the Mendips in Somerset, surrounded by the screech of mating vixens and with hawks clawing hold on his chimney to call him at dawn.

He has a horror of ‘in’ ephemera in journalism, evident in saying ‘bless you’, and using in-words like ‘with it’, ‘long, cool look’, ‘risible’, ‘escalation’, ‘abrasive’ and ‘corrosive’; thinks they are needed by poor journalists who ought to have been bank clerks, desperate to cover up lack of talent by frantic rushing round searching for more ‘with its’ to use as sparking plugs to motivate their otherwise chugging journalism.

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