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About The Author

Peter Delmar waiting for a train to come past, at Hemlock in the Elands River Valley

About Peter Delmar

Peter Delmar has been a hack newspaper journalist for more than 20 years. When he grows up one day, he really wants to be an historian.

A long, long time ago (2004 to be precise), Peter was driving along the N3 between Johannesburg and Durban, in the middle of nowhere, when the thought occurred to him: "I've driven this road dozens of times but I know almost nothing about the places I'm driving through; there must be stories out there ... and there and there and there. Can I find them?"

The answer to that question was: yes, he could but it would take Peter two years to track them down. The result was The N3 Book, a book containing hundreds of little (sometimes longish) stories about stuff you can see from the road. Some of the stories were important, some were utterly trivial but all of them were interesting in one way or another.

The book quickly went into a second print. People loved The N3 Book because it helped them connect with places and it helped to turn their road journeys into an adventure. (They also loved the fact that it was – and still is – dirt cheap.) In early 2009 Peter was asked to do the same, for the N4, the route between Pretoria and Maputo. He didn't just jump at the opportunity, he jumped straight into his car and headed for Nelspruit...

As Peter says, The N4 Book is a much better book than The N3 Book for the simple reason that "the N4 route is much more interesting than that of the N3".

"The human diversity along the N4 is incredible, and you can't swing a cat anywhere on the road without it bumping into a coal mine, a gold mine, a this and a that mine. On the N4 they mine stuff you've never even heard of," explains Peter. "Half of the South African War was fought along this road. The geology, agriculture and geography are incredible; even the weather is fascinating."

Why does Peter write books about roads, of all things? A proud African, he loves nothing more than poking his nose into other people's affairs, their history, their particular slice of a country which he honestly believes is the most beautiful, most fascinating in the world. "And I'm curious. I don't want to know everything about a particular place. I don't want to become an expert on geology or rare birds or one or the other culture but I do want to know enough to feel that, when I'm in a particular place, especially in the middle of nowhere, I know something about it, that I have connected with it."

Peter's business, Parkview Press, has published all of two books. A third, on Johannesburg (the city Peter and his family call home and which he reckons is quite unlike any other) is due out in mid-2010. Look out for other, upcoming, books, on the N2 (the Garden Route) and Cape Town. When he's not sifting through archives or travelling national roads, Peter works as a freelance journalist/writer/editor. He writes a weekly column in The Times newspaper.

To contact Peter, e-mail him at
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