“The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon” by David Grann (Doubleday, 2009)

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In 1925 one of the world’s last explorers, Percy Fawcett, traveled into the heart of the Amazon jungle with his son for his last expedition in search of a lost civilization.  It was a worldwide publicized event, with Fawcett writing journal entries and having a messenger take them to the nearest large town to be sent via telegraph to the rest of the world.  Then the entries suddenly stopped and Fawcett was never heard from again.  Expeditions were made to discover what happened to them; nothing was ever found, while some more people were lost to the Amazon.  The Lost City of Z is the story of Percy Fawcett, his life and how he became a great explorer, and where his obsession for the Amazon came from.  It is also the story of the mystery of this doomed last expedition, and all the efforts – some ending in tragedy – that have been made since then.

David Grann is a staff writer for the New Yorker who first found out about Percy Fawcett while researching an article on the mysterious death of the world’s foremost Sherlock Holmes expert.  The Lost City of Z takes Grann all over the world, from visiting Fawcett’s great granddaughter and seeing some of his original journal entries, to putting together his own expedition to find out what really happened to Percy Fawcett.  The Lost City of Z is the incredible story of one of the last explorers, but it is also the story of the strength of the human spirit and it’s drive to never give up.  Percy Fawcett was a real life Indiana Jones and this is his fascinating story.

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Originally written on February 9th 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.

For an interview with David Grann check out BookBanter Episode 26.

“Gentlemen of the Road: A Tale of Adventure” by Michael Chabon (Del Rey, 2007)

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Michael Chabon fans are in for a treat this year with a second novel from the bestselling author of The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and now The Yiddish Policemen’s Union.  Originally serialized in The New York Times over 2006 and 2007, each issue is now collected in a small and wonderfully designed edition, with illustrations by Gary Gianni, artist of the syndicated newspaper strip Prince Valiant.

This is the unlikely tale of Zelikman, a tall, thin Jewish physician from the distant Frankish lands, most noticeable for his long blond hair; and Amram, a giant of a man from the distant land of Abyssinia who incites fear in all who gaze upon him, and yet possesses a calculating mind.  The time is circa A.D. 950.  This entertaining duo are out to make a quick amount of gold through almost any means necessary.  They go where the pathways of the world take them, for they are gentlemen of the road.

After befriending a mysterious person known as Filaq, who turns out to be the unlikable heir of the recently deposed war king of the Khazars, they found themselves caught in larger invents involving war and the overthrowing of monarchies and the taking of nations.  Balanced with some jocular humor and written in the author’s unique style: “A plume of dust half a mile tall moved against the southern sky, slow and menacing, a quill scribing oaths of rebellion along the shores of the Khazar Sea”; and Chabon originally wanting to name the book “Jews With Swords,” Gentlemen the Men is a quick but thoughtful read that recalls the days of high adventure.

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Originally written on November 12th 2007 ©Alex C. Telander.