Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Fawcett Books of Adventure

Exploration Fawcett

Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett edited by Brian Fawcett

Product Description

The mystic and legendary British explorer Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett disappeared in the unknown and unexplored territory of Brazil's Mato Grosso in 1925. For 10 years, he had wandered the forests and death-filled rivers in search of a "lost" cities; convinced he knew the location of one, he headed off for the last time--never to be heard from again. The thrilling story of what occurred during that time has now been compiled by his son from manuscripts, letters, and logbooks. What happened to him after remains a mystery. "...should be read by everyone."--Daily Telegraph.

About the Author

Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett was born in 1867 in Devon, England. At the age of nineteen he was given a commission in the Royal Artillery. He served in Ceylon for several years where he met and married his wife. Later he performed secret service work in North Africa. Fawcett found himself bored with Army life and learned the art of surveying, hoping to land a more interesting job. Then in 1906 came the offer from the Society: His ticket to adventure.


This book is based on the letters and memoirs of Col. Percy Fawcett. He traveled through the Amazon mapping the borders between Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil in the time of the rubber boom. His adventures range from encounters with savage primitives such as the Maricoxi (look for the chapter where the Maxubis warn him about the Maricoxi... "vincha Maricoxi chimbibi coco" ..if you visit the Maricoxi you will be food for the pot) to the dangers of electric eels and pirhanas!

Fawcett is best remembered for the ill fated expedition he launched at age 56. He, along with his eldest son and a friend, attempted to penetrate unexplored regions in search of a lost civilization. They were never heard from again. His disappearance has been a source of speculation ever since.

This is one of the most remarkable of adventures. You will experience the South America of the early 1900's in a way you never could have previously imagined. Try it...you won't be sorry.

Tom Bouklas

(This book was published in Great Britain as Exploration Fawcett and in America as Lost Trails Lost Cities)

4.0 out of 5 stars Adventures in Amazonia, March 29, 2008
Percy Fawcett was a Royal Engineer in an army artillery unit. In 1906 he volunteered to survey the border between Brazil and Bolivia to end their almost constant border disputes. The survey was challenging, and Fawcett spent the rest of his life exploring Amazonia. He kept detailed diaries, and was a great correspondent. Several years after his disappearance in 1925, his son Brian compiled many of these materials into this great adventure story.

Brian lived many years in the region, and it is possible that some of the material was written by him. There are tall tales: a 62 foot long snake, manatees that kill crocodiles, a herb that dissolves rocks, a man who survived eight volleys from a firing squad and a condor that carried a man into the mountains. Other incredible stories are factual: the no calorie sweet stevia plant, dog excrement as a curative, Copaiba balsam oil with a multitude of uses and Indians that lived in holes and who filed their teeth. However authorship was divided, the result is a fascinating portrait of a great explorer.

A few passages illustrates the quality of the writing:

"(Cobija) had been a barraca, but was abandoned and became overgrown. In 1903 the Brazilians captured it, and then were wiped out by the Bolivians, who attacked with Indians. They fired the huts with burning arrows bound in petroleum-soaked cotton, and then picked off the defenders as they were forced into the open. Not a single Brazilian escaped. Even when we arrived there --- three years afterwards --- skeletons still littered the ground."

"...Any man who fell ill became the butt of the rest, and when he died there was tremendous hilarity. The staring corpse was tied to a pole, and sparsely covered in a shallow trench scraped out with paddles on the river bank, his monument a couple of crossed twigs tied with grass. For funeral there was a drop of kachasa all around, and ho for the next victim!"

"The man continued with a personal story about his nephew. He had walked through the thick bush to a nearby camp to retrieve his horse, which had gone lame and had been left there temporarily. He noticed, when he arrived, that his new Mexican spurs had been eaten away almost completely. The owner of the camp asked him if he had walked through a certain plant about a foot high, with dark reddish leaves. The young man said he had walked through a wide area that was completely covered with such plants. 'That's it!...That's what's eaten your spurs away! That's the stuff the Incas used for shaping stones. The juice will soften rock up till it's like paste. You must show me where you found the plants.' But when they retraced the young man's steps they were unable to locate them."

"The Indians there spoke of houses with 'stars to light them, which never went out.' This was the first, but not the last time I heard of these permanent lights found occasionally in the ancient houses built by that forgotten civilization of old. I knew that certain Indians of Ecuador were reputed to light their huts at night by means of luminous plants, but that, I considered, must be a different thing altogether. There was some secret means of illumination known to the ancients that remains to be rediscovered by scientists of today--some method of harnessing forces unknown to us."

Fawcett believed that there was once a great civilization in the Amazon Basin. His last journey was based on a basalt idol given to him by Sir H. Rider Haggard that gave an 'electric current' to any who held it. A psychic who held the idol and had a vision of a great city whose citizens worshipped 'on the border of demonology'. Fawcett died trying to find that city.

Fawcett's book is a detailed description of the region and the brutalities and wonders he found there. The strong overtones in the final pages of mysticism hint at the supernatural. It's well worth the effort to find a copy.

Note: this book was published in the US as "Lost Trails, Lost Cities" and in the UK as Exploration Fawcett.

Robert C. Ross 2008

Brazilian Adventure

Peter Fleming

Amazon.com Review - While novelist Ian Fleming is best known for bringing adventurer James Bond to life, his writer brother Peter Fleming, a reporter for The Times of London, survived South American misadventures so challenging they make 007's high-risk existence seem placid in comparison. Lured by a mysterious newspaper ad, Fleming sails with an expedition to Brazil in the 1930s, attempting to answer unresolved questions about a team of explorers, headed by a British Colonel Fawcett, that disappeared in 1925. Once arrived in Brazil, Fleming's expedition falls apart, being equipped with few provisions, erroneous maps, and a despotic leader who proves to be less than fearless in the Amazon jungles. The team soon splits, with former colleagues battling the elements and competing with each other in a race for time and a search for truth. A finely crafted travel tale, with prose that's sometimes as dense and colorful as the jungles it's set in, Brazilian Adventure manages to turn the harrowing into cheeky commentary and barely contained comedy. --Melissa Rossi


5.0 out of 5 stars a wonderful read, October 15, 1999
By A Customer
I can't believe nobody else has reviewed this book- it is a classic travel book and a wonderful read. It was his first book and very much a young man's piece of writing- a humorous, true account of an expedition to locate the famous explorer Col. (or was it Major?)Fawcett who vanished in the Amazon. I can't really do the book justice- just read it for yourself! Trivia: Peter was Ian Fleming's brother, Fawcet was the inspiration for Doyle's "The Lost World".

Engaging, witty and a must read!, December 14, 2000 Every so often I have to buy a new copy of Brazillian Adventure because I lend my copy to someone and they flatly refuse to return it again. This is one of the most engaging and good-humoured travel books ever. It was Fleming's first adventure and his first book - yet it became a classic work going into several editions early on and being used in schools as a study piece. It is seriously well written, and seriously engaging.

It starts with his blandly describing how he got involved in the expedition in the first place- answering an advertisement in the paper to go on a 'Fawcett hunt" (as he later called it). He thought he would go on a grand expedition to find the missing explorer Colonel Fawcett and get a little hunting done at the same time. There have been numerous books and studies done on the disappearnce of Fawcett in Brazil in the 1920's - to this day no one quite knows what happened to him, and as it turns out the expedition that Fleming was joining was not going to throw new light on matters either.

In fact the trip deteriorated badly the moment they hit Brazil, and Fleming's dry wit turns it all into a hilarious read - although it must have been desparately uncomfortable for them all. The expedition Leader was incompetent, the expedition split into two warring factions and they all ended up in a race back down the Amazon to try to get the banks in time.

Peter Fleming, in case you didn't know, is the brother of the 'James Bond' author Ian Fleming - a talent for writing seemed to run in the family. Peter continued his travels and writing career but I think this first book is the best of them all. There is also a wonderful biography on his life available but I think that is now out of print.

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon

David Grann

Amazon Exclusive: John Grisham Reviews The Lost City of Z

Since first publishing A Time to Kill in 1988, John Grisham has written twenty novels and one work of nonfiction, The Innocent Man. His second novel, The Firm, spent 47 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, becoming the bestselling novel of 1991. The success of The Pelican Brief, which hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list, and The Client, which debuted at number one, confirmed Grisham's reputation as the master of the legal thriller. His most recent novel, The Associate, was published in January 2009. Read his exclusive Amazon guest review of The Lost City of Z:

In April of 1925, a legendary British explorer named Percy Fawcett launched his final expedition into the depths of the Amazon in Brazil. His destination was the lost city of El Dorado, the “City of Gold,” an ancient kingdom of great sophistication, architecture, and culture that, for some reason, had vanished. The idea of El Dorado had captivated anthropologists, adventurers, and scientists for 400 years, though there was no evidence it ever existed. Hundreds of expeditions had gone looking for it. Thousands of men had perished in the jungles searching for it. Fawcett himself had barely survived several previous expeditions and was more determined than ever to find the lost city with its streets and temples of gold.

The world was watching. Fawcett, the last of the great Victorian adventurers, was financed by the Royal Geographical Society in London, the world’s foremost repository of research gathered by explorers. Fawcett, then age 57, had proclaimed for decades his belief in the City of Z, as he had nicknamed it. His writings, speeches, and exploits had captured the imagination of millions, and reports of his last expedition were front page news.

His expeditionary force consisted of three men--himself, his 21-year-old son Jack, and one of Jack’s friends. Fawcett believed that only a small group had any chance of surviving the horrors of the Amazon. He had seen large forces decimated by malaria, insects, snakes, poison darts, starvation, and insanity. He knew better. He and his two companions would travel light, carry their own supplies, eat off the land, pose no threat to the natives, and endure months of hardship in their search for the Lost City of Z.

They were never seen again. Fawcett’s daily dispatches trickled to a stop. Months passed with no word. Because he had survived several similar forays into the Amazon, his family and friends considered him to be near super-human. As before, they expected Fawcett to stumble out of the jungle, bearded and emaciated and announcing some fantastic discovery. It did not happen.

Over the years, the search for Fawcett became more alluring than the search for El Dorado itself. Rescue efforts, from the serious to the farcical, materialized in the years that followed, and hundreds of others lost their lives in the search. Rewards were posted. Psychics were brought in by the family. Articles and books were written. For decades the legend of Percy Fawcett refused to die.

The great mystery of what happened to Fawcett has never been solved, perhaps until now. In 2004, author David Grann discovered the story while researching another one. Soon, like hundreds before him, he became obsessed with the legend of the colorful adventurer and his baffling disappearance. Grann, a lifelong New Yorker with an admitted aversion to camping and mountain climbing, a lousy sense of direction, and an affinity for take-out food and air conditioning, soon found himself in the jungles of the Amazon. What he found there, some 80 years after Fawcett’s disappearance, is a startling conclusion to this absorbing narrative.

The Lost City of Z is a riveting, exciting and thoroughly compelling tale of adventure.

(Photo © Maki Galimberti)


Non-fiction to rival the wildest adventures!, December 18, 2008

I'm a huge fan of classic and contemporary tales of adventure, but I don't normally read much non-fiction. However, David Grann's The Lost City of Z sounded too irresistible to ignore. My instincts were right; it ranks among the best thrillers I've read. What a story!

Actually, it's two stories. The first is the life story of Victorian explorer Percy Harrison Fawcett. A member of the Royal Geographical Society, Fawcett was an explorer in the days when much of the globe was truly unknown. He came from a family of modest means, and began his career in the British military stationed in Ceylon. But he achieved worldwide acclaim as an explorer of the Amazonian jungles and river ways.

Grann's book is most concerned with Fawcett's last fateful expedition, but throughout the first couple hundred pages, he recounts Fawcett's entire career and it's enthralling. It's hard to imagine the bravery it took to strike out into the absolute unknown--with little or no communication with civilization--sometimes for years at a time. Fawcett and his companions routinely faced starvation, bloodthirsty indigenous tribes, horrific insect infestations, lethal tropical diseases, deadly white-water rapids, poisonous snakes, anacondas, piranha, and other terrifying creatures. If, for instance, you're wondering what's so horrific about insects, then you haven't been treated to a graphic description of what it's like when a living human is infested with maggots beneath their skin.

Fawcett and his men (always men) faced death constantly, and it seems that he must have lost hundreds of men in the course of his career. Perhaps not hundreds. Fawcett, unlike many of his contemporaries believed in keeping expeditions small. He was far more successful than most. The chapters that detail Fawcett's interactions with the native populations of the Amazon are among the most fascinating. Fawcett followed his own instincts which often were in direct opposition of conventional wisdom. Time after time he succeeded where others failed, and where the difference between success and failure was the difference between life and death.

Here's the other thing about Percy Fawcett: I think he was the Forrest Gump of his time. His story is touched on directly or indirectly by a truly staggering number of historic figures including Mark Twain, Charles Darwin, Arthur Conan Doyle, Mary Pickford, Ian Fleming, Winston Churchill, H. Rider Haggard, TE Lawrence, and even Indiana Jones!

As fascinating as every aspect of Fawcett's story is, the real hook is the enduring mystery of Fawcett's last expedition. Over the course of his long career, Fawcett had developed a hypothesis that there was once a great civilization in the depths of the Amazon. An El Dorado-like city that he simply called "Z." This is what he single-mindedly sought at the end of his career. In 1925, accompanied by his son and a friend, Fawcett entered the jungle determined to locate the lost city of Z--and was never heard from again.

He didn't go quietly. Readers around the world waited with bated breath to learn his fate. The story was routinely resurrected for decades. In the eighty-some years since, hundreds have entered the jungle hot on his trail. Many have never returned. Author David Grann is the most recent in a long line of would-be explorers obsessed with this mystery.

And it is Grann's tale that is the second story being told. He's an unlikely adventurer--a not particularly athletic, middle-aged staff writer for The New Yorker. But Grann does get caught up in the course of researching the book. So much so that he leaves his comfortable urban life, his wife, and his infant son to enter the Brazilian jungle. Like so many others, he seeks to find out what truly happened to Fawcett, and/or if there really was a Z. We follow Grann's progress interspersed between the chapters about Fawcett. One of the most shocking aspects of Grann's expedition is just how much the Amazon has changed since Fawcett's day. Grann doesn't dwell overly on the ecological ramifications, but the juxtaposition is disturbing.

Time and time again I had to restrain myself from turning to the back of the book to see how it ends. I was as caught up in the outcome as I have been with any novel in recent memory. Success was so unlikely; I just couldn't imagine how Grann's quest would end. And I'm certainly not going to tell you. Go read this book! Run! Now!

3.0 out of 5 stars A good read, if a little disapointing, December 16, 2009
By Daniel "Jarhead" (Quantico, VA. USA) - See all my reviews
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Anyone who is looking for a straight-through chronological telling of Fawcett's fateful expedition up to his mysterious disappearance will come away disappointed. Not enough is known about what happened to Fawcett to really build any story with that sort of narrative in mind. However Grann does a decent job of jumping back and forth in time, to his travels in searach of an answer, to brief glimpses of Fawcett's life and personality. Fawcett remains an enigma at the end of the book though. Grann doesn't really do the story justice, as he spends much of the book repeatedly giving the impression that although this is a tale that has been explored often, he is more concerned with trying to convey to the reader the same sense of virgin wonderment and average Joe befuddlement that the author obviously feels himself during his travels. It reads very much like one of Grann's New Yorker articles that has been expanded to fill an entire book. Much too much time is spent giving snippets of past and present events that the overall feeling is one of a disjointed story - and collection of notes rewritten as paragraphs and chapters, rather than a narrative with an engaging flow.

4.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting Tale About a Victorian Era Explorer Who Should Not Be Forgotten, December 6, 2009
By Tonytoga "Tonytoga" (Houston, Texas United States) - See all my reviews
Suppose you take a middle aged, out of shape, New York based reporter who prefers air conditioning to camping, a rocker to rock climbing and an admittedly bad sense of direction, plop him in the middle of the darkest, least explored part of the Amazon rain forest and ask him to determine what happened to and then report on what he found regarding an internationally famed explorer who went missing there nearly a century ago. Would he be able to produce a story worth hearing? Surprisingly, in the case of David Grann's 'The Lost City of Z,' the answer is a decided 'yes.' In this book, Grann literally goes in search of British explorer Colonel Percy Fawcett who, along with his son and a third companion, disappeared without a trace in the Amazon jungle in 1925 while searching for the fabled lost city of El Dorado, the "City of Gold." Along the way, Grann tells Fawcett's life story which in itself, is a tale worth telling. Fawcett was among the last of the great Victorian era explorers associated with the London's iconic Royal Geographical Society from wince sprang some of history's most intriguing characters. Having missed out on most of the opening of Africa in the late 19th century, Fawcett set his sights on South America, the Amazon River and the lost civilizations that legend says once lived there. In Fawcett, Grann finds a template for the courageous, stoic, never say die British explorer of the era. Grann's weaving of his own trip to South America with the history of Fawcett's life is cleverly done and allows you to go along on an exciting 21st century trip in search of history. It's not Indiana Jones exciting but it is a nicely flowing story about a man obcessed with his life's work and what probably happened to his tiny three man troop in a land that remains savage and untamed to this day. And if you enjoy this book, you might wish to consider 'The Last Days of the Incas' by Kim Maquarrie and 'Conquistador: Hernan Cortes, King Montezuma, and the Last Stand of the Aztecs' by Buddy Levy as two more histories that will give great insight into the region and its pre-modern history. They were my next two books after "Z" and carried my interest well.

1.0 out of 5 stars The Lost Narrative of Gramm, August 9, 2009
By Zachary (catalunya)
There are few things more lost than the rambling, obtuse, redundant narrative that lies within the Amazon that is this book. Gramm tries earnestly to keep it going, but the reader is quite sure of the ending by, well, the beginning. The author's writing--and scant time on the ground actually looking for Z--doesn't help matters.

On of the flaws in the obsessive, leave-no-stone unturned approach to non-fiction mysteries is that after the umpteenth false sighting of or conjecture about the missing person, the stones are really not that interesting anymore.

1.0 out of 5 stars Worst book of this genre I have ever read, April 16, 2009
By cussin' gus (california) - See all my reviews
I have read tons of books on explorers and I was really looking for ward to this. I read glowing reviews of this book in Nat Geo and the NYT Book Review. Lets just say they must have read a different book than I did. To begin with, the author was supposedly following in Fawcetts footsteps on a a type of adventure of his own but he wrote very little of his journey. Furthermore, The book is about 25% endnotes, and bibliography pages. Trust me, if you are a lover of true adventure/exploration accounts and feel compelled to read this, wait for about a year when you can pick it up used on Amazon for a penny. Meanwhile, I recommend you read "Into the Heart of Borneo" to bide your time.

1.0 out of 5 stars not what I expected and that's not a good thing, April 26, 2009
By Marena (North Wales, PA) - See all my reviews
This book was full of facts but it lacked the feel of adventure that the description had portrayed. Once again (seems to be happening a lot lately) the description provided for the book did not match the contents. This book was more about the explorer himself and every other explorer for that matter, than it was about his actual quest to find the Lost City of Z and his disappearance. It felt like the writer was trying to show off how much information he had obtained about Fawcett. Read at your own risk!

3.0 out of 5 stars A good introduction to a once-famous explorer, January 22, 2009
By Mark Shanks (Portland, OR) - See all my reviews
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Grann's take on the adventures of explorer Lt Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett is a welcome retelling about a man extremely well known in his time but somewhat unfamilar to modern readers. Unfortunately, he also takes us along on his own Amazonian trek, which may make for amusing reading to some (after all, he's a middle-aged writer for the New Yorker) but really adds little to a story that needs absolutely NO padding. The basis for this book is a 2005 article Grann wrote, and that may be a more distilled account .

Grann also is a little fast-and-loose. He consistently refers to Fawcett as a "Victorian explorer", when in fact Fawcett's first expedition wasn't until 5 years after Queen Victoria's death. A nit to some, but why not try harder? His style is chatty and adjective-heavy ("cold January day" is like saying "yellow canary") and adds a lot of details that may, or may not, be true, in describing every scene. And why throw in Charles Dickens' impressions of *his* ship's cabin when it was written 100 years before Fawcett's trip? For that metter, the bibliography is padded with Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, and even Hobbes' "Leviathan", but is missing two of the best books about Fawcett, Harold T. Wikins' "Mysteries of Ancient South America" and "Secret Cities of Old South America". Also missing: MAPS! How can you write a book about an Amazonian expedition and not include a SINGLE map? Photos would have been nice, too.

I've been interested in Fawcett for many years, so maybe I'm overly critical. It's still a good book, easy to read and a terrific introduction to this fascinating personality. I just wish it had a lot less Grann to it.

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