Let's see. We need someone to explore a new region with zero possibility of returning. You will die through contraction of awful tropical disease, staLet's see. We need someone to explore a new region with zero possibility of returning. You will die through contraction of awful tropical disease, starvation in a vast desert or murder at the hands of xenophobic desert nomads. Volunteers? Well, yes, there are, if you want to count 18th century Brits. I don't know what compelled them to go, but I do not think you would get any moderns to do so unless they had been told they only had six months to live. However, for the pre-Victorian Brits, the desire to explore new regions and the attendant fame compelled them to try to be the first to visit the fabled city of Timbuktu in what is now Mali. Timbuktu was believed to be filled with treasures and no white man had seen it since the Roman era. That an American had actually been there and reported what he'd found in the 1790s did not count-He was a freedman and not white. Also, he said there was nothing much there-and that couldn't right. The "Race" mentioned in the title was the competition to reach Timbuktu to win a prize offered by the French Geograhical Society in 1824. Earlier than that, however, two members of the Royal Society in London formed "The African Association," and that is what started the attempts to find Timbuktu. An explorer, Mungo Park, beginning from the West coast of Africa and attempting to find the origin of the Niger River (The other goal besides that of reaching Timbuktu) was the most successful of the early explorers. He seems to have been killed in an ambush, which he seems to have brought on himself by fighting with natives along the route. The two who were featured in the race presented here were Clapperton and Laing. Clapperton was favored as he had already been part of an expedition which had penetrated pretty far into the continent. Laing had the support of the British ambassador to Tripoli, Warrington. Laing married Warrington's daughter the night before he left and
never saw her again. They did write to each other and although no European had made the journey between Timbuktu and Tripoli there were plenty of Arabs who had done so routinely. They delivered communications between the explorers and their benefactors. Laing made it to Tripoli, wrote all about it and then was murdered when he left for home. There was some fear of the explorers since the leaders of the various cities, tribes and nations had heard what had happened in India and considered the Europeans point men for future expansion. They were prescient on that of course.
Besides exploration, the British had one more reason to penetrate the heart of Africa. It was their desire to stop the slave trade pursued by most of the tribes of the reason. Of course, the Brits had been all for the trade a few decades before, but had banned it and like an ex-smoker trying to get his friends to give up, must have seemed insufferable and hypocritical to the slavers.
Did I like the book? I thoroughly enjoyed it. Kryza switched back and forth between other explorers and Laing to give the race drama. This was a little difficult at first because the figures mentioned here are not remembered, so it was a little hard to keep straight who was who. But, once you got that out of the way it was a smooth and enjoyable read.
I don't know if Frank Kryza made much money from this. I suspect a lot of the historical writers I have been reading have not made a ton off of their books, but I certainly respect and enjoy their efforts even if they are not making the bucks of a John Grissom. It is this kind of effort that now and then brings fascinating people like Laing, Clapperton and Warrington to us 21st century readers and keep their names from being forgotten. Herodotus said history is written so great men and their deeds are not forgotten-or something like that. Thanks Frank, I appreciated the book and the effort....more
What an interesting choice for a topic. Herman Perry was a homesick, drug-using soldier in the CBI theater (China-Burma-India) in World War II who fraWhat an interesting choice for a topic. Herman Perry was a homesick, drug-using soldier in the CBI theater (China-Burma-India) in World War II who fragged an officer coming to arrest him and ran off into the jungles of Assam.
Perry was only 20 when he was drafted and had been living in Washington DC with his mothers and his brothers. One of his brothers, Aaron, became a fairly successful boxer although possibly due to what happend to Herman unraveled and eventually wound up in prison. Perry had been working as a butcher, courting a woman named Alma Talbot and was generally doing pretty well. He had problems with the draft board and was put in prison for a little bit and then sent off to CBI.
Perry of course had seen racism and experienced Jim Crow laws, but never the in-your-face stuff he was to encounter in the army. Most black soldiers were not seen as courageous enough to be put into combat units at that time, so the majority were given menial support tasks. Perry was put on a road building crew-a road through Burma that was to reach China and help to supply Chiang Kai-Shek with materials in his fight with the Japanese. The road was to go through jungle and was a monumental and ultimatley futile undertaking. Although Perry and the men in his unit were all black, they were commanded by white officers (Of course, another canard of the day is that blacks needed white officers.)
The region that the road was going through was in the Naga homeland. The Nagas were headhunters and the greatest thing a Naga man could do was deliver heads for the villages. The victims were anyone they could get there , but usually cam from raiding other Naga tribes. The British had tried to use shock and awe tactics to pacify the Nagas by burning villages and killing their occupants, but this generally made other Nagas happy as they lost a competitor and could waltz down and behead the Brits' victims. After skinning the heads, the Nagas stuck water buffalo horns in the sides and propped the mouths open so they could not chomp down in the afterlife. The Nagas did not them to enjoy it.
Anyhow, things went bad for Herman and he was constantly in trouble until he shot a hard-ass lieutenant in the chest and killed him. Perry was on drugs at the time and ran off into the jungle and wondered around for a few days. When he returned he seemed to have not realized what he had done and some of his buddies told him he'd better make tracks because he was sure to be court-martialed and executed.
This is the point where the legend of "The Jungle King" begins. Perry ends of living with a Naga tribe and marrying the 14-year old daughter of the chieftan. Eventually, he is caught, escapes egain and is hung in the end.
"Now the Hell with Start" is what Perry said just before he was executed. The book was interesting from start to finish. Koerner informs us of the grinding racism experienced by WW II black-units, the problems building the road through the Assam province, the culture, history and modern life of the Naga people, the man who caught Perry-Callum and what happened to the legend of "The Jungle King."
He is an entertaining writer and his prose is not stuffy at all.
I read this in a couple of days which shows you how into the book I was.
Interesting book written by Samuel Sewall's descendant. A very religious man-A calvinist who was behind the curve on the witch trials, but way ahead iInteresting book written by Samuel Sewall's descendant. A very religious man-A calvinist who was behind the curve on the witch trials, but way ahead in his opposition to slavery. He wrote the first essay against slavery in the new world, pointing out among other things that the English were constantly complaining about their own people enslaved by North Africans, but turned around and enslaved West Africans....more
One of my favorite Theroux travel books. He is returning to Africa 30 years later after having spent several years teaching in Malawi and Uganda whenOne of my favorite Theroux travel books. He is returning to Africa 30 years later after having spent several years teaching in Malawi and Uganda when he was in the Peace Corp. He finds things have not changed for the better and much worse is many cases. He finds the cities are really dismal and has a lot of questions about whether all of the aid and aid workers that have poured into Africa have been any benefit. He meets Africans from all walks of life and meets some really wonderful people as well as people you definately would not want to run into in your travels. He eschews the normal tourist jaunts and rides broken down buses and trains. His best trips, though, were the ones in the dugout canoes and the ferry.
Ethiopia sounds like the place to visit from his description and that is backed up by one of my friends who has traveled to 100 plus countries who said that Ethiopia and a red lake in Chili were the two most amazing places he had seen.
Two years earlier you were the royal treasurer, a position that had been in the family for several generations, and living in Seville. Now you are sitTwo years earlier you were the royal treasurer, a position that had been in the family for several generations, and living in Seville. Now you are sitting naked on a beach on an island of the coast of Texas a 1,000 miles from civilization and hoping that the island tribe will feed you rather than consume you.
Cabeza de Vaca chucked away a great job for the time and joined an expedition led by Narvaez who was hoping to what Cortex did in North America. The kind grated him all the land from Florida to Northern Mexico to explore and exploit. He signed up 300 men and shot off from Seville to the new world. It was the early 1500s and still difficult to get across the Atlantic and around the Carribean. He needed to find a decent pilot who knew the gulf coast and found a man who claimed he did. He did not and ended up landing the expedition in Florida-He had intended to go to Northern Mexico.
It didn't matter too much to the explorers when they heard from a tribe there were some incredibly rich people in the north. They had a gold goblet and that was proof enough for the conquistadores and they marched inland and through central Florida. They left a number of people at the ships to track them up the coast. They never saw them again. The march was a disaster. The people up north were richer than the initial group the explorers had ventured upon, but they had nothing to really motivate the explorers. The explorers did attack and and attempt to exploit these tribes, but they would pay for that over time as the Indians harassed the Spaniards as they moved to the coast. They waited at the cost for a few months before realizing that they would not meet their mates in the ships and decided to melt down all of their weapons and armor and make rafts. By this time they had figured out they were across the continent from where they intended to be, but hoped to hug the coastline and make it around to Mexico to where there were Spanish communities.
All but 70 of the 300 made it as far as Texas and once they got there they gradually died off. Two of the five rafts made it to what was eventually named the Isle of Ill Fate. The natives were friendly and fed the survivors. One night the remainder tried to leave and their last raft was upturned and all clothes were lost which is when Cabeza de Vaca was sitting on the beach naked with absolutely nothing to his name. The Indians must have wondered how these pathetic creatures came to their island. They were naked, had no ability to fend for themselves and were completely at the mercy of the natives. I think you would have had a hard time believing that these were representatives of the most powerful nation in the world at that time.
Things were tough for the Indians and they couldn't feed these people forever and turned them into slaves. Eventually down to four survivors, Cabeza de Vaca and the others suffered through two years of hardships before escaping. At that point they made their way across the continent and acquired fame as medicine men. In fact, Indians would announce their coming ahead of time and prepare the next group by raiding them of their belongings. That sounds bad, but in turn the group that had just been raided would hit the next group.
Eventually, Cabeza de Vaca made it to civilization. He had a hard time adapting to wearing clothes again and sleeping in a bed. He had gotten so used to going naked and sleeping on the ground, which I suppose we could all get used to if we had to.
If this sounds interesting to you, give the book a shot. I finished it in two days I was so into it. You learn much about the hardships faced by the explorers and the native people. There is also a useful explanation of navigation in the early 16th century....more
Usually when I pick up a history of Egypt it appears too technical for the layman, but this was an excellent read and pitched for a reader like me whoUsually when I pick up a history of Egypt it appears too technical for the layman, but this was an excellent read and pitched for a reader like me who reads lots of histories, but is not particularilly expert. It game me a good perspective on Egyptian history and a gave flesh to a few of the names I have known....more
This was a really great read-I had no idea so many men had goat testicles inserted into their scrotums in the 1930s. Brinkley became rich working outThis was a really great read-I had no idea so many men had goat testicles inserted into their scrotums in the 1930s. Brinkley became rich working out of a little town in Kansas as men from all over the country visited to get their vigor back. Brinkley claimed that if he grafted goat testicles onto human testicles that the old love muscle would start working again. It was a great time for quacks, but the AMA gave chase and I won't spoil it for you.
Also, readers learn about early commercial radio and how Brinkley started a sort of radio variety show to get listeners to hear his quack surgerys and potions. He was eventually shut down in the U.S., but he went to Mexico and set up the most powerful radio station in the world at the time.
The goat testicle grafter ran for govenor of Kansas twice and nearly won the first time. He was the first politician to fly around on the campaign trail. I had thought it was Johnson in his senatorial campaign in Texas, but he may have picked up the idea from Brinkley.
There is a lot in this book and was written with sort of a dark humor-I liked this line about when Brinkley was hitting bottom-"Meanwhile the IRS with its infallible eye for carrion, was coming after him for back taxes."