Reading to Write: How Much for a Book?


A few readers have asked me how much research goes into the writing of a book. How much do you have to read in order to write? It really depends on the project, of course. And I’m sure it’s different for everyone. I tend to read quite a lot. Partly because I love to read, and doing a book or an article gives me an excuse to dig into a subject. You never really know what sort of obscure fact or...

Amoral Familism and the Med


If you want to understand Malta — and the southern Mediterranean in general — then you’ll want to come to grips with the theory of Amoral Familism. As far as I can tell, the term was coined by the anthropologist Edward C. Banfield, who conducted ethnographical research in the town of Chiaromonte in southern Italy in 1955. Banfield wrote that the fundamental rule of amoral familism was, “Maximize...

A New Life in a New Town


I learned and experienced many things during my years in Malta, and I wrote around 30 articles about it — most of them were positive, about the places we discovered, from small village streets to the windswept heights of Ras ir-Raheb and the coast of Blata tal-Melh. But some were critical, too. I found the history to be quite fascinating. The present culture not so much. And this past year of...

My Island Years Are at an End


I moved to the Mediterranean because I wanted to write an island book inspired by Lawrence Durrell. But it had to be a place no one else had written about — at least, not in that way. I found Malta after a brief web search. I knew nothing about the place apart from indirect Dashiell Hammett references and vague notions of Knights battling Turks. That vagueness appealed to me. And so we gave up...

An Island Christmas with Traces of Rome


The highlight of my Christmas Eve was a last minute drive over to Valletta to see the new Star Wars film. Valletta was in full xmas-mode and it seemed like half the island was out for a stroll. Only 15 people in the entire cinema made it feel like a private screening, and Rogue One did not disappoint. But that’s not the story I wanted to share with you today. As has become my custom when in Malta...

Is This The World’s Stupidest Hobby?


Have you ever dreamed of living in the middle of an artillery firing range? Then Malta in summer is for you. Whereas the military might lob a few shells over for a couple hours a week, here you can be treated to a nonstop bombardment, varying in intensity between dull monotony to cataclysmic barrage, with a brief break between about 1am and 8am. I can still recall my first experience with the...

Is There One “Perfect Place” For Everyone?


I’ve dedicated the past decade and a half of my life to traveling the world’s marginal places. I started off exploring forgotten regions, like Central America’s Mosquito Coast or the Mongolian Gobi. But I’ve also conducted a very long inquiry into expat life. I have a checklist in my head. It’s sort of a list of my ideal criteria: what would be the perfect place for someone like me? The place...

Apartment Hunting in Malta — A Cautionary Tale


It’s incredible how disruptive the apartment hunting process is here in Malta. The entire game is dominated by agents, who earn a commission equal to one month’s rent each time they successfully match owner with tenant. Unlike in Canada, a lease doesn’t just continue month to month once the initial term has expired. A year is a year, and the contract is deemed to be over unless you sign on...

Exploring Malta’s Victoria Lines


The Victoria Lines is a 12km long series of fortifications that cuts across the island of Malta from coast to coast, along a steep escarpment called The Great Fault. […the Great Fault was actually no one’s fault… just geology…] They were built by the British between 1870 and 1899, to defend the main part of the island from a landing and invasion in the north. The Grand Harbour became the Royal...

Searching for the Past — How I Spent Christmas


Christmas is just another day for me. I’m not religious, and if forced to choose I would pick the old Greek and Roman pagan gods over any current creed or belief system. We don’t have any family in Malta either. And so, rather than sit around at home working, we decided to take advantage of the silence of the countryside to do a little exploring. It was a nice sunny December day, and the guns of...


Sign up for my entertaining email newsletter and claim your FREE gift!

Recent Posts