Book review: Artist Round the Bend
Author: Mike Norris
Publisher: Self
ISBN: 978-0-62070-246-1
Designer: Marise Bauer, M Design, Pietermaritzburg
75 Pages: Illustrated

Twenty years on Safari

Introduced recently in these pages, Artist Round the Bend is a car book for people not interested in cars. It’s also a personal memoir of the first 20 years of the longest, fastest and toughest rally the world had known – for people who don’t give an oil rag about motorsport or history.

It isn’t a formal chronicle of the world’s greatest motor rally, the East African Safari. At least four others have done it more competently than Mike Norris believes he ever could. The book’s unique selling point is that it consists of his personal observations on each year’s running of the event. And that, rather than relying on faded or grainy black-and-white photographs, it is illustrated with renditions of his own oil-on-canvas paintings of grand adventures the world will hopefully never forget.
As the author explains, he was just three years old when the inaugural Coronation Safari took place. It was a rather informal event for standard production cars, run to celebrate the Coronation, on 2 June 1953, of Queen Elizabeth ll. An occasion to end all occasions, almost everyone in Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika (as it was then) became involved. Young Norris had little choice. He was hooked for life.

So great was community participation that, while a father and son might work a passage control point, Mum could be dispensing tea at a refreshment stop and Cousin Bob who worked at the local garage was wielding spanners with a service crew. The local greengrocer drove Car number 27, while Car 76 was in the hands of the schoolmaster and his wife. Anyone not directly immersed was glued to the popping and squealing of shortwave radio – to catch the latest rally news.
It’s a little coffee table book, slightly larger than A5, printed on heavy semi-gloss paper with a faux-silk finish. The photographs accompanying each year’s text are on right hand pages; because that’s where your eyes drift naturally. The illustrations are the book’s main purpose, after all. The narrative, in easy-reading conversational tone, simply provides background.
Artist Round the Bend is on sale at Lazy Lizard Book Traders, Greendale Acres, Howick and at Bookworld, Cascades Centre, Pietermaritzburg. Out-of-towners may order directly from the author on

Emailed orders cost R300-00 plus registered postage of R50-00. If you’re a Midlander, he might even deliver your copy personally. Expats can order directly via the above address and transact using PayPal. The price is USD25-00 plus postage.

Pic by Mike Norris: Peugeot 404. jpg – “Seemingly built for Africa, the Peugeot 404 dominated Safari results for years”

Pic by Mike Norris: Peugeot 404. “Seemingly built for Africa, the Peugeot 404 dominated Safari results for years”