West Wickham author Paul Bellamy always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time during his travels through 94 countries.
He was in Tiananmen Square during the student protests of 1989 and Kashmir when Pakistan’s President Zia was assassinated.
The 54-year-old said: “I’ve had guns stuck in my face in Nigeria and the Central African Republic, been accused of being a mercenary in Cameroon, been held up at militia checkpoints in the Philippines and Libya and almost sunk in the middle of the Atlantic but I was most scared for my life working in the Thornton Heath Job Centre when dealing with a dissatisfied job-seeker.”
Paul, a diplomat who was made an MBE in 2009, has written Backpackers, a novel with the tagline ‘fear on a shoestring’.
Bored at St Joseph’s Academy in Blackheath, Paul worked for a couple of years before beginning a decade of independent travelling himself.
During the boom years of Thatcher, he was in low-paid work overseas such as a greenhouse labourer in Holland, a decorator in Australia, a film extra in Hong Kong and a toilet cleaner in the Falklands.
He took a job at the job centre after travelling around Asia, which started a life in the British Civil Service, with postings to hostile places such as Tripoli, Islamabad and Tehran.
He said: “It can be a dangerous world out there so I wrote Backpackers, partly for the fun of it but also because I wanted to scare the bejesus out of backpackers and their patents and, hopefully, persuade them to take much more care of their safety when abroad than they often do.”