Headhunters on My Doorstep: A True Treasure Island Ghost Story

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The bestselling author of The Sex Lives of Cannibals recounts his latest hilarious misadventures in the South Pacific, following in the footsteps of his unlikely idol, Robert Louis Stevenson
Readers and critics alike adore J. Maarten Troost for his signature wry and witty take on the adventure memoir. Hailed by Entertainment Weekly as a “funny, candid, and ...

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Headhunters on My Doorstep: A True Treasure Island Ghost Story

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The bestselling author of The Sex Lives of Cannibals recounts his latest hilarious misadventures in the South Pacific, following in the footsteps of his unlikely idol, Robert Louis Stevenson
Readers and critics alike adore J. Maarten Troost for his signature wry and witty take on the adventure memoir. Hailed by Entertainment Weekly as a “funny, candid, and down-to-earth travel companion,” Troost’s bestselling debut, The Sex Lives of Cannibals, is an enduring favorite about life in the South Seas.
Headhunters on My Doorstep chronicles Troost’s return to the South Pacific after his struggle with alcoholism and time in rehab left him numb to life. Deciding to retrace the path once traveled by the author of Treasure Island, Troost follows Robert Louis Stevenson to the Marquesas, the Tuamotus, Tahiti, the Gilberts, and Samoa, tumbling from one comic misadventure to another as he confronts his newfound sobriety.
Somewhere en route from the shark-infested waters of Fakarava to the remote islands of Kiribati, Troost gradually awakens to the beauty of life and reconnects with his family and the world.  Headhunters on My Doorstep is a funny yet poignant account of one man’s journey to find himself that will captivate travel writing aficionados, Robert Louis Stevenson fans, and anyone who has ever lost his way.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Emerging still shaken from alcohol rehab, famed travel author J. Maarten Troost devised an unlikely recovery plan: The author of Lost on Planet China and The Sex Lives of Cannibals decided to retrace the 1890s South Pacific routes of his hero Robert Louis Stevenson. As Troost's many fans could predict, following in the footsteps of his literary idol turned out to be a hilarious, if some harrowing experience. In the midst of all his misadventures, however, is also the story of how Troost's eventful trek stabilized him and renewed his connections with the world around him.

Publishers Weekly
Newly sober travel writer Troost retraces Robert Louis Stevenson's route through the South Pacific from the Marquesas to Samoa in this evocative, funny literary memoir. He recounts his voyage upon the Aranui III cargo ship rooming with a seasick "family of cheerful gnomes from Lyon," battling the urge for a drink and acquiring a traditional Marquesan tattoo on the anniversary of his sobriety. Troost provides insight into addiction and recovery that, in his case, turned him from alcoholic to longdistance runner, and from Buddhism to the Catholic Church. We learn the history of the islands and view the beautiful landscapes of lagoons, atolls, and beaches through Troost's vibrant descriptions. Troost muses on quotes from Stevenson's In the South Seas, such as his thoughts on cannibalism, "to eat a man's flesh after he is dead is far less hateful than to oppress him whilst he lives." He also discusses other literary works about the South Pacific including Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl's Back to Nature and Herman Melville's Typee. Troost is an excellent travel narrator, clever, bold, and full of captivating visual details. His personal story of recovery is also powerfully told and will surely resonate with many readers. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Troost (The Sex Lives of Cannibals) has done it again: he has created a masterly travelog that is simultaneously informative, funny, and introspective. Troost returns to the South Pacific, where he lived years earlier, before settling down on (as he simply refers to it) a continent. He attributes his alcoholism to non-island time; whether large land masses can be blamed for his thirst for vodka is debatable, but what is unquestionable is his ability to look at himself and his foibles and weave them into a good tale—in this case his attempt to follow in the footsteps of Robert Louis Stevenson. This book takes Troost to the Marquesas, the Tuamotus, Tahiti (all three now part of French Polynesia), the Gilberts (now Kiribati), and, finally, Samoa. VERDICT Troost displays a level of sophistication rarely found in travel writing. His humor is spot on, and one needs humor when reading about the loss of indigenous culture in the Marquesas, the urban sprawl of Tahiti, and the notion that Kiribati may soon be subsumed by the Pacific Ocean. Acquire this book by any means possible. [See Prepub Alert, 12/13/12.]—Lee Arnold, Historical Soc. of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Kirkus Reviews
Following a stint in rehab, travel writer Troost (Lost on Planet China: The Strange and True Story of One Man's Attempt to Understand the World's Most Mystifying Nation or How He Became Comfortable Eating Live Squid, 2008, etc.) chronicles his journey toward finding his new sober self while following in the tracks of Robert Louis Stevenson. For years, Troost lived the good life: "For a long while, decades even, the sun had shone on me. Life had been an effortless glide." Then, suddenly, it wasn't, and his wife dropped him at a rehab center along with an ultimatum to sober up or else. On the road to recovery, the author delved into the literature of the South Seas, particularly Stevenson's Treasure Island. His curiosity reawakened following his newfound sobriety, Troost set out on his own adventure for some of the most remote islands on Earth, including the Marquesas, the Tuamotus, Tahiti, the Gilberts and Samoa. Whether detailing the boorish behavior of other travelers, the serenity/fright experienced when snorkeling with sharks, rising sea levels or his own inadequacies, Troost's language rings true. The author candidly, humorously probes the nether regions of his addiction along with the temptations he encountered during his journey. "So now here I was," he writes, "nearly twelve months sober, alone for the first time in a faraway place, on a boatful of booze." Troost's sly wit permeates the narrative, propelling his saga out of the ranks of many recovery memoirs. The author weaves together entertaining and illuminating pop-culture touchstones, history, and cultural, culinary and literary references with personal experiences while rambling across the South Seas. A rambunctious, intimate trip well worth the armchair time.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781592407897
  • Publisher: Gotham
  • Publication date: 8/20/2013
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 977,586
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

J. Maarten Troost was a consultant for the World Bank and has lived in the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Canada, Kiribati, Fiji, and Vanuatu, among other exotic locations before settling down near Washington, D.C.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Everyone has problems. Spend a few moments catching up with friends and you’re likely to hear a litany of catastrophes.

“I lost my job at the prison,” one might say.

“I’m going to prison,” says another.

“I’m about to lose my home.”

“I blew mine up to collect the insurance.”

“My ferret died.”

“I ate mine.”

“. . .”

“Long story.”

Tales of woe had become inescapable. What were once simple quandaries now seemed to come equipped with trapdoors. One misstep and you’d tumble into the chute of doom, where demotions became terminations, homeowners became squatters, and Little Bandit was no longer safe. I was no exception. I too had problems. Multitudes of problems. If something could go wrong, it usually did. The only law that seemed to apply to me was Mr. Murphy’s. For a long while, decades even, the sun had shone upon me. Life had been an effortless glide. I’d traveled the world, married my soul mate, sired two strapping boys, and wrote books that— I’ve been confidently informed—landed on the bestseller list in Eugene, Oregon. I couldn’t explain why good things happened to me. They just did. But then, like a bad Chinese proverb, my good fortune evaporated like a spilled Slurpee in a Phoenix parking lot. Everything that could go wrong . . . was not a thought I dared to finish. It could always get worse, and usually it did.

What’d happened? I wondered. Good luck seeks no antecedent, but bad luck demands an inquest. Was it simply written in the cosmos? Did the yin of happiness necessitate the yang of misery? Could it simply be bad karma? No, I thought, as I reflected on the causes of my misfortune. Behind every event, every circumstance, lay a cold, hard trail of facts. I needed only to follow the breadcrumbs of past experience to bring me to the source of my tribulations. And there, sadly, I found something immense and unmovable:


Bad things happened to me on large land masses. Terrible things.

This was a most unfortunate realization, of course. How I’d hoped to discover an unhappy childhood, an unjust prison sentence, or a soul-scarring bout of acne to explain the recent trajectory of my life. Who wants to blame their woes on something as inalterable as the North American tectonic plate? After all, continents are— at the very least— nice to look at. I too could admire majestic, snow-glazed mountains, the rivers that flowed with the tide of history, the buzz of the megacity. I am, for the record, appreciative of boreal forests and rain forests, deserts, and the vast expanse of the northern tundra. I like New York and Los Angeles, as well as Mumbai, Shanghai, and Dubai. I am fond of small towns. Also apple pie and yak, though not together. All this can be found on continents. But, alas, experience tells me that if I’m not surrounded by an ocean, my life crumbles like a stale cookie.

It’s true.

Take my most recent sojourn in North America. I’d protected my well-being by living on a peninsula. Surrounded by water on three sides, I navigated the perils of the modern world, and whenever events or situations threatened to leave my eyes agog and my head a- splitting, I retreated to a rented sailboat, where secure in a finite space surrounded by the infinite blue of the ocean, I navigated pitching waves and morning fog with an aplomb that failed me on dry land. On water I was free and sure; on land I felt like a lost fish. But then, chasing a job, I moved deeper into the continent, distant from familiar waters and sandy dunes, and there I fell.

Into the bottle to be precise. This wasn’t entirely unexpected. In retrospect, it was probably a foregone conclusion. I’d always had a temperamental shut-off valve. Open-minded to the mind-altering, I’d long ago learned to be wary of the seductive offerings of both the street and the pharmacy. I’d known that drugs could be a problem and that it was best to dispense with the experimentation early on. I pretty much maxed out on magic mushrooms. Instead, I’d settled into the steady companionship of pint glasses and decanters. Like everyone. It was normal, no? A few beers at the bar; wine with dinner. It was all good. In fact, hard liquor was a no-no in my world— until, eventually, it wasn’t, and there was that unknown moment when the proverbial invisible line was crossed, when everything started to tumble with a terrifying ferocity, and despite untold As-God-Is-My-Witness promises to get this under control, to show some restraint, I couldn’t. I couldn’t stop. Not until my wife, bless her, deposited me at rehab, where, sedated with Librium, I learned that lucky-ducky that I was, I had a fatal brain disease and should I ever pick up a drink again I might as well put five bullets in a six-shooter and shove it down my piehole.

So this was bad. And it happened on a continent. In my mind, the case was closed.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 2, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    Headhunters on my Doorstep is an amazing piece of work. The auth

    Headhunters on my Doorstep is an amazing piece of work. The author writes with both wit and wisdom. It is a fun adventure and I'm glad I got to go along for the ride through his book.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2014

    Windclan Allegiences

    Leader: Firestar <p> Deputy: Brackenfur <p> Warriors: Pebblestep <br> Mountainclaw <br> Rockpelt <br> Cometstorm <br> Ripplewave <br> Waterwhirl <br> Emberleaf, Apprintence: Brookpaw <br> Shellpool <br> Flamewind <br> Articfrost <br> Berryleaf <br> Grassfur <br> Tundraheart <br> Cloudfur <br> Fallsong <br> Falconsong <br> Ashfur <br> Rosepetal <br> Dovewing <br> Poppycloud <br> Birdseye <br> Graystripe <p> Medicence Cat: Flowernose <p> Medicence Cat Apprintence: Leafbreeze <p> Apprintences: Brookpaw <p> Queens: None at the moment. <p> Elders: Rabbitflight <br> Minnowfern <br> Jayfeather <p> (NOTE TO ALL: The family line in my saga is so long I forget cats. So please excuse me if a cat may just appear in camp that was not mentioned in the allegiences. Bye!)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2014

    Boo to 21

    Put it here if you can if you dont understand what i mean by spaceing it heres a example the name "reyliea" spaceing it would be "r e y l i e a" does that make sence and for the @ thing make sure that is spaced for sure alright

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  • Posted September 7, 2013

    This was not the book I anticipated from J. Maarten. I have be

    This was not the book I anticipated from J. Maarten. I have been a huge fan of Mr. Troost and would cherish the opportunity to meet him in person. This is not just a trip around the South Pacific but more a struggle with a man and his demons. It is not of the caliber of the &quot;Sex Lives of Cannibals&quot;. Over time, I pray for another &quot;Sex Lives....&quot; quality product. I wanted to give Three-Star for readability and Five for content.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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