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Jack Higgins interview in BBC Holidays Magazine - May 1994

  • What's your idea of holiday hell?
A cruise. Once you're on board, you're trapped! If the weather goes wrong, all you can do is sit in the bar or in your cabin watching TV. And then if you don't get on with your fellow-passengers ... It can also be a problem if, like me, you're a sort of minor celebrity. I once came back from the States on the QE2 and a waiter recognized me and told everybody who I was. From then on there was an unrelenting stream of invitations to every-possible sort of on-board "do" - it was like being under attack.
  • Define paradise
St John in the US Virgin Islands. My wife introduced me to scuba diving there about three years ago. It's a stunning environment: mountain peaks sticking out of the amazing colored sea, and then this whole new world underwater. Just marvelous.
  • If you could go anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you head for and why?
Jalousie Plantation on St Lucia, which used to be owned by Colin Tennant. It's rather remote and the roads are pretty terrible, but the scenery is spectacular and the local people extremely nice.
  • Describe your passport photo
I have two. My Irish passport makes me look like a chief of staff for the Provisional IRA.In my English one I look slightly more relaxed - but it's still not marvelous.
  • What's your favorite holiday pastime?
Diving, and reading. Not too many novels, I've been in the business too long: I can usually spot the way the plot's going to go by page three!
  • What are the best and worst souvenirs you've ever bought?
Best are probably our shells, collected when we've been out diving. My wife's got a huge collection. The worst was a very ethnic vase which we bought in the Caribbean, which broke before we'd even got it home.
  • What item do you always take with you on holiday?
The simplest thing of all - those eyeshields that help you sleep on long flights.
  • Who would be your ideal traveling companion and why?
My wife. She's extremely knowledgeable, having read geography and geology at Oxford and trained in meteorology.
  • What were your best and worst holidays ever?
The best was at Caneel Bay on St John. We were in Cottage 7, the best on the island: Harry Truman, the Kennedys and Nixon have all stayed there. The night before we were due to leave, we sat having a drink under the palm trees, there was music playing, and my wife said, "God! I wish we didn't have to go home." So I said, "Well, have another drink' and went off to make a few calls. The cottage was free the following week, so I walked back in the bar and said, "There you go, you've got another week!" I can't describe how fantastic that week was.

The worst was a long time ago, when I was still an academic, married to my first wife with three small kids. We used to rent a cottage at the seaside every summer. One year, we booked a nice old place on Alderney in the Channel Islands for five weeks - and it rained every day. There was nothing for us or the kids to do and it all became an absolute travail.

  • What do you miss most when you're away from home?
English newspapers; The Times, Telegraph, Mail and Express. I'm always so pleased to see the papers they hand out on board the plane when it's time to come home.