David Reynolds, Bloomsbury co-founder and the current director of Old Street Publishing, will release his second book, Slow Road to Brownsville (Greystone Books, £10.99), this month.
The book is an account of Reynolds’ road trip along Highway 83, which runs from northern Canada to the titular Brownsville, Texas, on the Mexican border. The journey begins in the town of Swan River, which provided the title of his first book (Swan River: A Memoir of a Family Mystery, Picador, 2001). While researching Swan River, which is about Reynolds’ grandfather, who disappeared in the town, the author was told about a local highway that ran all the way south to Mexico, which piqued his interest.
Greystone published Swan River in the US, and encouraged Reynolds to write another book. He said: “I mentioned the road to someone at Greystone—not as a book idea, just as an amazing fact—and he said I should write a book about it. At first I thought I wasn’t qualified to do that but I researched it and thought it would be really interesting.” In 2010 Reynolds spent six weeks driving along the highway: “I went deliberately slowly, backwards, forwards, sideways and spent a lot of time talking to people in bars, cafes, libraries and motels.” He was also inspired by a childhood absorbed in the culture of cowboys and Indians, as the highway runs through Plains Indians territory. “I wanted to find out the reality behind the myths,” he said.
Reynolds left Bloomsbury in 1999, and set up Old Street in 2006, but prior to both of those roles, he worked for Reader’s Digest. He said: “At Reader’s Digest you were always rewriting people’s stuff, which was incredible training. I guess I always had a bit of an itchy finger to rewrite other people. I quite often published people who weren’t really writers but had a story to tell, and I enjoyed helping them. I was never really supposed to be a publisher of fiction — in a way it was better not to [publish it], so you can read it without thinking too professionally about it.”