Peter Allison, author of Whatever You Do, Don't Run answers Ten Terrifying Questions

by |May 15, 2010

The Booktopia Book Guru Asks

Peter Allison

author of

Whatever You Do, Don’t Run : Confessions of a Botswana Safari Guide and Don’t Look Behind You, But… : More Tales from an African Safari Guide

Ten Terrifying Questions


1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Sydney, and lived there until 16, when a scholarship took me to Japan. That is where I was infested with the travel bug, and I have rarely stayed still ever since.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

David Attenborough. David Attenborough. Rich. I’ve always loved animals, and do believe that Sir David has been the most effective conservationist of the three hundred years or so that he has been on television. The last is just because living in a tent grows wearisome.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That I could save the world. I was sure that someday it would happen – now my aims are diminished and I merely want to save a species from extinction.

4. What were three works of art – book, painting, piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

I am the perhaps the last person to comment on art (after spending a few hours at the MCA I wanted my money back, even though the entry was free), but do love wildlife photography and as a child pored over National Geographics, no matter how old, perhaps making me the only child who liked dentist’s offices. Apart from that so many writers have influenced me, but I am most blatantly gunning for Bill Bryson’s career.

5. Considering the innumerable career paths open to you, why do you choose to write books?

What better life could anyone have?! While answering these questions I am in La Paz, Bolivia, but am about to take a five day rafting trip (raft perhaps too grand a word – it is a series of tyre tubes lashed together) into the Madidi National Park to look for jaguars. All for work of course. (BBGuru: Lucky, lucky, bastard.)

6. Can you please tell us about the book you’re now working on?

The next book is tentatively titled Chasing the Jaguar and will be about my experiences with South American wildlife, the nature of nomadism, and why you should never fall into a piranha filled river with a nose bleed.

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

Nothing contagious.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

Again this is just too hard a question! I think Patrick O’Brian is wonderful (Jane Austen for boys), Bryson’s book on science – A Short History Of Nearly Everything –  should be in every school, but I particularly love Louis de Bernieres’ use of language.

9. Many writers set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

To not starve. Chose a silly profession for that, didn’t I?

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Take every rejection personally. It means you care enough about what you are doing. The only other advice I can give is to persist.

Peter, thank you for playing.

Booktopia Book Guru says… I have read Peter’s books and can recommend them both. If you like to laugh, and who doesn’t, then Pete’s books are for you. If you love Africa, animals and roughing it, then Pete’s books are for you. If you want to taste a life entirely foreign to your own, if you want to be wander through the wilds of Africa from the safety of your armchair, then, once again, both of Pete’s books are for you. That should about cover everyone. Now get to reading them!

Start with Whatever You Do, Don’t Run.

The warm, funny and utterly engaging true story of a young Aussie safari guide who has spent the last twelve years leading tours in the African bush.

Peter Allison was only nineteen when he left Australia for Africa, thinking he might travel around and see a bit of the country before going home to a ‘proper job’. But Africa worked its magic, and Peter ended up falling, quickly and completely, in love with the country and its wildlife. Landing in a game reserve in the wildlife-rich Okavango Delta, he became a safari guide and, some twelve years later, his short holiday in Africa isn’t over yet.

Whatever You Do, Don’t Run is his guide’s-eye view of living in the bush, confronting the world’s fiercest animals and, most challenging of all, managing herds of gaping tourists. Like the young woman who rejected the recommended safari-friendly khaki to wear a more ‘fashionable’ hot pink ensemble, or the Japanese tourist who requested a repeat performance of Allison’s being charged by a lion so he could videotape it.

Peter Allison – like an affable, younger David Attenborough or a slightly more laid-back Steve Irwin – really knows his wildlife. He’s had some extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime experiences. From close encounters with hungry lions, cranky elephants and over-protective honey badgers, there’s not much in the African bush that Peter hasn’t seen, done or been chased by. His affection for these wild and dangerous animals and his fascination with, and respect for, their often extraordinary behaviour is completely genuine, deep and infectious.

Reading Whatever You Do, Don’t Run is like sitting around a campfire late at night and listening to him talking – his stories of the animals and the bush are gentle, warm, funny and utterly engaging.

Be Peter’s friend on Facebook – here

And follow him on Twitter – here

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About the Contributor

While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. ​Now, as the Director of Books at, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.

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