This blog has been shamefully neglected over the past few months while I’ve been developing Deskbound Traveller, which is dedicated to travel storytelling. One of my objectives there is to broaden notions of what constitutes travel writing to let in, among other things, fiction and poetry.

I’m not sure that The Spies, by the Brazilian writer Luis Fernando Verissimo (Maclehose Press), which I read over Christmas, falls within the criteria I’ve set out for the new site (and those are pretty all-embracing), which is why I’m mentioning it here. It’s a delightful comic novel about a frustrated publisher who receives in instalments a manuscript from an author known only as Ariadne. It turns out she is married to one of two shady brothers who dominate a small town in a distant province. Taken with her story (if not her disdain for commas), which he reads as a cry for help, he despatches a series of his drinking buddies — the spies — to the town to save her so he can sign her up.

If you’re planning a trip to Brazil for the World Cup, or after the final whistle when room rates will doubtless be lower, you will, of course, have already read Telegraph Travel’s beginner’s guide to the country, written by my colleague Chris Moss. I don’t think The Spies was available in English at the time he was compiling his recommended reading, but I would definitely add it to his list. Football even features tangentially in the plot, when the publisher’s friends are taken for match-fixers.


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