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Mark Swain was born in Singapore in 1958, where his father was stationed in the RAF. He has lived in many countries, and as a young man found it hard to break the habit of a nomadic life, so fascinated was he by the variety of cultures he experienced as a child.
With a low boredom threshold, Mark has had dozens of jobs and quite a few careers. This provides him with endless source material for short stories and is probably the prime reason for the sense of authenticity people see in his work. Studying Graphic Design at Hastings College of Art at 16, he ran off and joined the Army in search of adventure. Later he found himself travelling the world on the QE2 as a silver-service waiter and going to the Falklands war. Training as a TEFL teacher took him to Tokyo in 1984, where he met his wife Lorna. Setting up a successful Risk Management Consultancy business, Mark took a year out to cycle 10,000miles from Ireland to Japan in 2008 with his teenage son. This resulted in them writing Long Road Hard Lessons, which became an Amazon bestseller.
In 2010 Mark Swain won the Kinglake Prize for Modern Short Stories for "Special Treatment".
Mark and his wife Lorna have three grown-up children and live in Canterbury, Kent. There is not much in his life that he does without passion, although he will do anything to avoid having to dance or empty a kitchen bin. Asked about his ambitions, desires, or his sense of right and wrong, he says, “I trust in instinct. Like a plant, I simply grow towards the light.”
Mark particularly enjoys the Short Story form, admiring American short story writers such as Raymond Carver, Richard Brautigan and Richard Ford as well as classic short story writers Franz Kafka and Anton Chekov. He is also a great admirer of George Orwell, John Steinbeck, Norman Maclean, Albert Camus and the contemporary travel writer Jonathan Raban.
Two collections of Mark's own short stories - including the award winning story 'Special Treatment' - have been released by his UK publisher, Tinderbox Publishing Ltd along with the bestselling "Long Road, Hard Lessons" a non-fiction book with photographs and maps about a 10,000-mile life-changing cycle journey he made with his teenage son from Ireland to Japan.
Mark is at home in England, but is constantly drawn back to Asia, Morocco, and to Dingle in Ireland.
on Aug. 16, 2012 :
I was surprised with myself when I had difficulty putting this book down. How could a 10-month long bike ride keep me engaged for over 300 pages? Mark Swain uses this book to share the incredible journey of him and his son, Sam. The reader joins these two riders on their adventures through Welsh hills, German cycle paths, Turkish mountains, muddy Indian hillsides, picturesque Laotian hill climbs, rural Chinese villages and everywhere in between.
Reading this book as I began my first long distance cycle trip, I found Mark's advice and cautions for touring cyclists to be invaluable. Though fellow cyclists certainly benefit from reading this book, it is not littered in cycling jargon, therefore it is accessible to everyone.
At the core of this rather formidable journey is the dynamic relationship of a father and son. Each initially admitting to going on the ride for the benefit of the other, both Mark and Sam share first hand accounts and retrospective analyses of their relationship as it oscillates day by day. The reader tags along as Sam deals with the constant solitude of cycling and Mark is forced to 'gear down.'
My sole disappointment with the book is that Sam did not share more of his perspective. Though he describes a lack of confidence to contribute constructively to conversations throughout the trip, I still would have liked a greater counterbalance to Mark's description of their changing relationship.
More than anything I appreciated their honest story telling. Though the ride may have been monotonous at times and many of the obstacles overcome were not glamourous, it is the sincere attempt to be unflatteringly honest that kept me captivated with this very human story. It is this central pillar of the book that draws the reader into this story about a real father and son pushing themselves beyond their limits.
(reviewed long after purchase)