Dart Travis was born on the island of Jersey to a French-speaking mother and an English-speaking father, which he claims gave him an early interest in the intrinsic lack of genuine communication between cultures. His mother, Denise Leniece, was an accomplished painter, who was fond of the works of Alexandre Dumas, and Dart said she was only dissuaded from calling Dart’s three older siblings Athos, Porthos and Aramis by a delegation from both sides of the family (I don’t believe a word of it). Whatever, she insisted on christening her youngest son D’Artagnan. Her Jersey landscapes were too bizarre to sell well locally at the time, but are now collected.
Dart’s photo comes from the era that Foreign Affairs is set in. Dart and I first met teaching in the 1970s, and I take credit for persuading Dart that while one apostrophe in a name was mildly irritating, two plus an intercap was ridiculous. After a few days of trying to explain his chosen spelling (D’Art’) to classes, D’Art’ became Dart, and has remained so ever since.
We kept vaguely in touch through the 70s, and I received an occasional rude postcard from the various places where Dart had ended up teaching: The British Council in Bulgaria; the Oxford and Cambridge Language Institute in Phuket and The Kool Skool (sic) in Amsterdam. I met him once, in 1983 when I was in Viareggio, Italy and he turned up with his stunning Italian wife and took me to dinner. He told me he had taught in England again the previous year for a few months, and had tried to look me up but had failed to locate me. I gave him my new address, but the postcards petered out in the mid-nineties, and I often wondered what had happened to him.
So I was surprised to receive a barrage of e-mails with the manuscripts of five novels enclosed. Dart had found my current address on the internet, and he wondered if my small ELT imprint, Three Vee, was interested in publishing any or all of them. Dart’s present location in southern Venezuela makes communication difficult, and I agreed to use his novels as a trial on eBook publishing.
I know the eras, and I can confirm the accuracy of the setting of these picaresque novels. Dart has researched the music and events that form the background to the stories so as to give a feel of the era. He also told me that he had persuaded long exiled colleagues to read the manuscripts searching for like, you know, kind of, modernisms, in the dialogue. The novels feel genuinely of their time.
I read them avidly, and it was with major relief that I realized that at least no character bore any resemblance to me. I know Dart had done lights on variety shows in his summer holidays for three years, lived through the May demos at university in 1968 and was a roadie for a rock band in 1969. We were working together in 1972. Dart was always a weaver of tales and the ones here are somewhat different to those he told me nearer the time.
Peter Viney, Three Vee Limited