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

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"In 1925, Fawcett ventured into the Amazon to find an ancient civilization, vowing to make one of the most important archaeological discoveries in history. For centuries Europeans believed the world's largest jungle concealed the glittering kingdom of El Dorado. Thousands died looking for it. Over time many scientists came to view the Amazon as a deathtrap that could never support a complex society. But Fawcett, whose daring expeditions helped inspire Conan Doyle's The Lost World, had spent years building his scientific case. Captivating the
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The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon

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Overview

"In 1925, Fawcett ventured into the Amazon to find an ancient civilization, vowing to make one of the most important archaeological discoveries in history. For centuries Europeans believed the world's largest jungle concealed the glittering kingdom of El Dorado. Thousands died looking for it. Over time many scientists came to view the Amazon as a deathtrap that could never support a complex society. But Fawcett, whose daring expeditions helped inspire Conan Doyle's The Lost World, had spent years building his scientific case. Captivating the imagination of millions around the globe, Fawcett embarked with his twenty-one-year-old son, determined to prove that this ancient civilization - which he dubbed "Z" - existed. Then he and his expedition vanished." Fawcett's fate - and the tantalizing clues he left behind about "Z" - became an obsession for hundreds who followed him into the uncharted wilderness. For decades scientists and adventurers have searched for evidence of Fawcett's party and the lost City of Z. Countless have perished, been captured by tribes, or gone mad. As David Grann delved ever deeper into the mystery surrounding Fawcett's quest and the greater mystery of what lies within the Amazon, he found himself, like the generations who preceded him, drawn into the jungle's "green hell." His quest for the truth, and his stunning discoveries about Fawcett's fate and "Z," form the heart of this narrative.
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Editorial Reviews

Marie Arana
The Lost City of Z…recounts Fawcett's expeditions with all the pace of a white-knuckle adventure story. The book is a model of suspense and concision…Although Fawcett's story cuts through 100 years of complicated history, Grann follows its twists and turns admirably. Thoroughly researched, vividly told, this is a thrill ride from start to finish.
—The Washington Post
Rich Cohen
…outstanding…The book is screwball…a hybrid in which the weak, fear-wracked reporter from the present age confronts the crazed iron men of yore, citizens of a country as grand and gone as the kingdom of the Incas. The result is a powerful narrative, stiff lipped and Victorian at the center, trippy at the edges, as if one of those stern men of Conrad had found himself trapped in a novel by Garcia Marquez.
—The New York Times Book Review
Michiko Kakutani
…at once a biography, a detective story and a wonderfully vivid piece of travel writing that combines Bruce Chatwinesque powers of observation with a Waugh-like sense of the absurd…it reads with all the pace and excitement of a movie thriller and all the verisimilitude and detail of firsthand reportage, and it seems almost surely destined for a secure perch on the best-seller lists.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

In 1925, renowned British explorer Col. Percy Harrison Fawcett embarked on a much publicized search to find the city of Z, site of an ancient Amazonian civilization that may or may not have existed. Fawcett, along with his grown son Jack, never returned, but that didn't stop countless others, including actors, college professors and well-funded explorers from venturing into the jungle to find Fawcett or the city. Among the wannabe explorers is Grann, a staff writer for the New Yorker, who has bad eyes and a worse sense of direction. He became interested in Fawcett while researching another story, eventually venturing into the Amazon to satisfy his all-consuming curiosity about the explorer and his fatal mission. Largely about Fawcett, the book examines the stranglehold of passion as Grann's vigorous research mirrors Fawcett's obsession with uncovering the mysteries of the jungle. By interweaving the great story of Fawcett with his own investigative escapades in South America and Britain, Grann provides an in-depth, captivating character study that has the relentless energy of a classic adventure tale. (Feb.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
A stirring tale of lost civilizations, avarice, madness and everything else that makes exploration so much fun. As New Yorker staff writer and debut author Grann notes, the British explorer Percy Fawcett's exploits in jungles and atop mountains inspired novels such as Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World, and his character is the tutelary spirit of the Indiana Jones franchise. Fawcett in turn was nurtured by his associations with fabulists such as Doyle and H. Rider Haggard, whose talisman he bore into the Amazonian rainforest. Working from a buried treasure in the form of long-lost diaries, Grann reconstructs the 1925 voyage Fawcett undertook with his 21-year-old son to find the supposed Lost City of Z, which, by all accounts, may have been El Dorado, the fabled place of untold amounts of Inca gold. Many a conquistador had died looking for the place, though in their wake, "after a toll of death and suffering worthy of Joseph Conrad, most archaeologists had concluded that El Dorado was no more than a delusion." Fawcett was not among them, nor was his rival, a rich American doctor named Alexander Hamilton Rice, who was hot on the trail. Fawcett determined that a small expedition would be more likely to survive than a large one. Perhaps so, but the expedition notes record a hell of humid swamps and "flesh and carrion-eating bees [and] gnats in clouds . . . rendering one's food unpalatable by filling it with their filthy bodies, their bellies red and disgustingly distended with one's own blood." It would get worse, we imagine, before Fawcett and his party disappeared, never to be seen again. Though, as Grann writes, they were ironically close to the object of their quest. A colorful tale oftrue adventure, marked by satisfyingly unexpected twists, turns and plenty of dark portents. First printing of 125,000
From the Publisher
“Suspenseful. . . . Rollicking. . . . Reads with all the pace and excitement of a movie thriller. . . . The Lost City of Z is at once a biography, a detective story and a wonderfully vivid piece of travel writing that combines Bruce Chatwinesque powers of observation with a Waugh-like sense of the absurd. Mr. Grann treats us to a harrowing reconstruction of Fawcett’s forays into the Amazonian jungle, as well as an evocative rendering of the vanished age of exploration.”
—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
 
“Breathtaking. . . . Grann brings Fawcett’s remarkable story to a beautifully written, perfectly paced fruition. . . . Any writer who can breathe life into letters written by scientists in the early 1900s deserves more than a hat tip.”
The Los Angeles Times
 
“Brilliant. . . . Impressively researched and skillfully crafted. . . . Grann makes abundantly clear in this fascinating, epic story of exploration and obsession, [that] the lethal attraction of the Amazon mystery remains strong.”
The Boston Globe
 
“A smart biographical page-turner.”
USA Today
 
“Grann escapes death and tracks down Z, giving the reader the kind of Indiana Jones kicks best experienced vicariously.”
Details
 
“A riveting, exciting and thoroughly compelling tale of adventure.”
—John Grisham
 
“Thoroughly researched, vividly told. . . . Grann recounts Fawcett’s expeditions with all the pace of a white-knuckle adventure story. . . . A thrill ride from start to finish.”
The Washington Post
 
“The story of Z goes to the heart of the central questions of our age. In the battle between man and a hostile environment, who wins? A fascinating and brilliant book.”
—Malcolm Gladwell
 
“A spellbinding tale that produces fresh surprises around each turn. . . . An amazing story.”
Dallas Morning News
 
“A fascinating yarn that touches on science, history, and some truly obsessive personalities.”
Entertainment Weekly
 
“There is something about Fawcett’s spirit and self-assurance that captivates. . . . To read The Lost City of Z is to feel grateful that Grann himself bothered to set out for the Amazon in search of the bones of an explorer whose body was long ago reclaimed by the jungle.”
Christian Science Monitor
 
“In a hyperconnected and exhaustively charted world, here is a revelation about wildness and the mad desire to plunge into it. . . . Unfathomably riveting. . . . Grann wildly delivers the goods.”
GQ
 
“A blockbuster tale of adventure.”
New York Observer
 
“Marvelous. . . . [Grann] combines a colorful narrative of Fawcett’s early life, military career, jungle treks, theories and even conversations with a biography of an extraordinary man and an overview of the last great and highly competitive age of exploration.”
Bloomberg News
 
“A blood-stirring reading experience.”
The Denver Post
 
“A deeply satisfying revelation. . . . What could be better—obsession, mystery, deadly insects, shrunken heads, suppurating wounds, hostile tribesmen—all for us to savor in our homes, safely before the fire.”
—Erik Larson
 
“What makes Mr. Grann’s telling of the story so captivating is that he decides not simply to go off in search of yet more relics of our absent hero—but to go off himself in search of the city that Fawcett was looking for so heroically when he suddenly went AWOL.”
—Simon Winchester, The Wall Street Journal
 
“Fast-paced adventure. . . . Grann delights us with the lure of obsession under a canopy of trees.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer
 
“Absorbing and fair-minded. . . . In restoring a life that history has swallowed from general view, and vindicating a crackpot theory, Mr. Grann has also exposed the toll that explorers often took on those who loved or depended on them.”
—Richard B. Woodward, The New York Times
 
“An engrossing book, whose protagonist could outmarch Lara Croft and out-think Indiana Jones. . . . It’s almost enough to make you reach for a backpack.”
The Daily Telegraph (London)
 
“A riveting adventure-mystery in the tradition of Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, said to be inspired by Fawcett.”
The Toronto Star
 
“Perfect for armchair travelers and readers with fond childhood memories of books recounting tales of adventure in the dark wild. . . . What [Grann] found should help change how we think about the Amazon. . . . Read it, shiver with delight and thank your lucky stars you’re never going to get as close to a candirú as Fawcett and Grann did. (Look it up on Wikipedia, if you dare.)” —Richmond Times-Dispatch
 
“Thrilling. . . . What a story. . . . The beauty is that as incredible as it is, it’s true.”
Daily News
 
“Outstanding. . . . A powerful narrative, stiff lipped and Victorian at the center, trippy at the edges, as if one of those stern men of Conrad had found himself trapped in a novel by García Márquez.”
—Rich Cohen, The New York Times Book Review
 
“Did Grann find the lost city? . . . It’s worth reading every page of this marvelous book to find out.”
Houston Chronicle
 
“Grann is no hard-as-nails explorer, and his self-deprecating personal narrative . . . serves as a comic counterpoint to the superhuman exploits of Fawcett. Grann may not be able to hack the wilderness very well, but as a storyteller he’s first-rate.” —Outside
 
“Grann has an extraordinary sense of pacing, and his scenes of forest adventure are dispatched in passages of swift, arresting simplicity. . . . A splendid, suspenseful book.”
Bookforum
 
“With this riveting work, David Grann emerges on our national landscape as a major new talent. His superb writing style, his skills as a reporter, his masterful use of historical and scientific documents, and his stunning storytelling ability are on full display here, producing an endlessly absorbing tale about a magical subject that captivates from start to finish. This is a terrific book.”
—Doris Kearns Goodwin
 
“A thrilling yarn. . . . What [Grann] finds is what makes The Lost City of Z so gratifying, and in the end he, and we along with him, find ourselves stunned by what Percy Fawcett discovered.”
The Oregonian
 
“Grann paints a vivid picture of the final days of trail-blazing, Earth-bound grand exploration, before airplanes and radios began stripping the mystery from the unknown parts of the world.”
The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA)
 
“Meticulously researched and spellbinding. . . . Reads like a cross between an Indiana Jones adventure and a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel. . . . Gripping.”
The Ottawa Citizen
 
“Irresistible. . . . At once a biography of Fawcett, a history of the era of exploration, a science book on the nature and ethnography of the Amazon and a thrilling armchair adventure. . . . [It] has everything to fire the imagination: Romance, nostalgia, bravery, monomania, hardship, adventure, science, tragedy, mystery.”
South Florida Sun Sentinel
 
The Lost City of Z is meticulously researched, riveting and horrifying, guided by a core mystery that seems unimaginable and an author driven into the depths of the jungle by his daring to imagine it.”
Philadelphia City Paper
 
“Absorbing. . . . A wonderful story of a lost age of heroic exploration.”
The Sunday Times (London)
 
“Tantalizing. . . . Grann gives us a glimpse of the vanished age of exploration [as well as] a suspenseful, often very funny account of his own trek as a complete amateur into the ‘green hell’ of the Amazon. . . . Immensely entertaining.”
The Gazette (Montreal)
 
“Thankfully, for those of us who secretly live and breath for the swashbuckling adventure tale, every now and then a book comes along that renews our faith in the epic quest narrative, its ability to inform and enlighten even as it feeds our most primal need for dramatic amusement. [The Lost City of Z] succeeds tremendously in these pursuits.”
The Globe and Mail (Canada)
Library Journal
To fully follow his story, Mitchell Zuckoff (Frozen in Time) helped fund the expedition to search for the Duck and traveled with the team to Greenland. David Grann decided to go to the jungles of the Amazon. A writer for the New Yorker, Gann, like so many before him became fascinated with the story of famed British explorer Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett and his quest to discover the City of Z, a fabled Amazonian site thought to be El Dorado. Fawcett disappeared into the jungle in 1925 and was never seen again. Grann decided to follow in Fawcett’s footsteps and set out for the jungles himself. His story details his own journey, what he learned of Fawcett’s, and the stories of others who sought to discover the City of Z and claim its fame. Just as Zuckoff describes the cold and dedication of the airmen and Coast Guard, Grann details the heat, bugs, and landscape of the jungle, and the obsessions of explorers, and provides readers with an involving high-stakes adventure quest that is both vastly entertaining and richly characterized.

(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

The Barnes & Noble Review
Percy Harrison Fawcett (he went by "Colonel," although he was only a lieutenant colonel) was among the last of the gentleman explorers, the generalists who set out with machete and sketchbook to fill in the blank spots on the globe. Born in 1867, Fawcett, a wiry teetotalling Englishman who seemed immune to malaria, did this work better and faster than anyone believed was possible: in 1906–7 he mapped the border between Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil, an inhospitable jungle river; in the seven years that followed he was all over the Amazon, sometimes following rivers, sometimes hacking his way overland, always with only a small party to help him. His surveying trips won him a medal from the Royal Geographical Society and a certain amount of fame (although never any money); but the expedition for which he is best known is the one he undertook in 1925, accompanied only by his son Jack and Raleigh Rimmell, Jack's boyhood friend. They were looking for a legendary city, which Fawcett referred to in his notes as "Z." None of them ever returned.

The 1925 expedition has been the subject of much speculation: in addition to the reasonable hypotheses (that Fawcett, Jack, and Rimmell died of natural causes in the jungle or were killed by unfriendly Indians) students of the mystery have imagined that Fawcett was being held captive, or that he had found his city and decided to stay there, or even that he vanished via a mystical portal into the hollow earth. He shows up now and then in the popular imagination: in a volume of Tintin, in an Indiana Jones novel. In 2005 a British theater director claimed, on the evidence of Fawcett's private letters, that the explorer never intended to return from the jungle; instead he planned to start a secret community organized around the worship of his son, along with other "unusual beliefs."

David Grann re-covers this ground in The Lost City of Z. Grann, a staff writer for The New Yorker, is both more thorough and more reliable than most of Fawcett's chroniclers; he follows the explorer from his childhood in England through his military service in Ceylon, his years as a spy in the Middle East, an Amazon explorer, a soldier, and, finally, the victim of his own need to find the aptly named Z, the last letter in the alphabet of his travels.

It's a phenomenal story, and Grann doesn't stint on details. We learn (can this be true?) that Fawcett's mother sent him to the punishing Royal Military Academy at Woolwich because she "liked the splendid uniforms"; that Fawcett's brother Edward helped Helena Blavatsky, through whose ample body every story of 19th-century mysticism must apparently pass, to research her three-volume opus The Secret Doctrine; and that Edward became a writer of popular adventure novels, "the English answer to Jules Verne," whose fictions feature fantastical lost cities not unlike the one Percy would die looking for.

The real explorers who populate The Lost City of Z are no less colorful than the imaginary ones. Fawcett's chief rival in the race to map the South American interior was an American doctor named Alexander Hamilton Rice, whose disposition, means, and methods were the opposite of Fawcett's own. Rice equipped large groups at great personal expense and liked gadgetry: he was the first explorer to bring a radio into the jungle (it weighed 40 pounds, cost the equivalent of $67,000, and couldn't transmit, but it did allow him to keep up with the news), and even built a 40-foot amphibious vessel that might have come straight from one of Edward Fawcett's adventure novels. Rice represented the future of exploration, and Percy Fawcett must at some level have known it; one of the more melancholy currents that runs through The Lost City of Z is Fawcett's growing interest in the occult -- he was a contributor to The Occult Review and wrote an article on "Obsession" for Light magazine -- as though he'd realized that in the material world he was already overmatched.

However strange Fawcett became, however, the people who went looking for him were stranger. The greater tragedy of the Fawcett expedition isn't the fact of Percy Fawcett's own disappearance, or his son's, or even the disappearance of poor Raleigh Rimmell, who'd fallen in love with a duke's daughter on the way to Brazil and had second thoughts about the whole lost-city thing. It's the surprisingly large number of people who died trying to find him, or Z, or both -- all told, perhaps 100. Among them was a Swiss named Rattin, who claimed to have seen Fawcett alive in the jungle, and a Hollywood actor named Albert de Winton, who spent nine months in the jungle, emerged, went back, and didn't emerge again. Eventually it got so bad that the Brazilian government required explorers looking for Fawcett to obtain special permission.

Not everyone who looked for him died. In 1928, an explorer named George Miller Dyott took a party into the Amazon and claimed to have proof that Fawcett had been killed by Indians (his story didn't hold up, but he wrote a book and got a movie deal anyway). One expedition turned up Fawcett's bones (they weren't) and another found Fawcett's grandson Dulipé, the "White God of the Xingu" (he wasn't). In 1996, a Brazilian banker and his son went looking and were kidnapped; fortunately they could pay. Then there was David Grann.

Grann's story of his own trip to the interior, sections of which are interspersed through the book, is impressive: even in the days of the Land Rover and the satellite phone, poking around in the jungle is risky, uncomfortable work. And yet I can't help wishing that Grann had made less of himself. Maybe it's because his adventures, for all their hairy moments, pale in comparison to Fawcett's really horrific slogs through the wilderness, which Grann had to compress in order to keep his book to a manageable size. Or maybe it's because the story of the journalist -- especially the one who, as Grann says of himself, likes "take-out food, sports highlights, and the air-conditioning on high" -- who is compelled not only to write about but to relive his subject matter has become a nonfiction writer's cliché. As far as I can tell, Grann's own travels turned up no information about Fawcett or Z that hadn't been published elsewhere. It's the one part of the book that functions less as an exploration than as a kind of creaky simulacrum, an adventure ride that takes us to a city that's been found over and over. --Paul La Farge

Paul La Farge is the author of two novels: The Artist of the Missing and Haussmann, or the Distinction.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780739376980
  • Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/24/2009
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Sales rank: 985,721
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 5.90 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

David Grann has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 2003. He has written about everything from New York City's antiquated water tunnels to the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang, from the hunt for the giant squid to the mysterious death of the world's greatest Sherlock Holmes expert. His stories have appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and The New Republic, where he is also a contributing editor.
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Read an Excerpt

1
WE SHALL RETURN On a cold January day in 1925, a tall, distinguished gentleman hurried across the docks in Hoboken, New Jersey, toward the S.S. Vauban, a five-hundred-and-eleven-foot ocean liner bound for Rio de Janeiro. He was fifty-seven years old, and stood over six feet, his long arms corded with muscles.

Although his hair was thinning and his mustache was flecked with white, he was so fit that he could walk for days with little, if any, rest or nourishment. His nose was crooked like a boxer's, and there was something ferocious about his appearance, especially his eyes. They were set close together and peered out from under thick tufts of hair. No one, not even his family, seemed to agree on their color-some thought they were blue, others gray. Yet virtually everyone who encountered him was struck by their intensity: some called them "the eyes of a visionary." He had frequently been photographed in riding boots and wearing a Stetson, with a rifle slung over his shoulder, but even in a suit and a tie, and without his customary wild beard, he could be recognized by the crowds on the pier. He was Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett, and his name was known throughout the world.

He was the last of the great Victorian explorers who ventured into uncharted realms with little more than a machete, a compass, and an almost divine sense of purpose. For nearly two decades, stories of his adventures had captivated the public's imagination: how he had survived in the South American wilderness without contact with the outside world; how he was ambushed by hostile tribesmen, many of whom had never before seen a white man; how he battled piranha, electric eels, jaguars, crocodiles, vampire bats, and anacondas, including one that almost crushed him; and how he emerged with maps of regions from which no previous expedition had returned. He was renowned as the "David Livingstone of the Amazon," and was believed to have such unrivaled powers of endurance that a few colleagues even claimed he was immune to death. An American explorer described him as "a man of indomitable will, infinite resource, fearless"; another said that he could "outwalk and outhike and outexplore anybody else." The London Geographical Journal, the pre-eminent publication in its field, observed in 1953 that "Fawcett marked the end of an age. One might almost call him the last of the individualist explorers. The day of the aeroplane, the radio, the organized and heavily financed modern expedition had not arrived. With him, it was the heroic story of a man against the forest."

In 1916, the Royal Geographical Society had awarded him, with the blessing of King George V, a gold medal "for his contributions to the mapping of South America." And every few years, when he emerged from the jungle, spidery thin and bedraggled, dozens of scientists and luminaries would pack into the Society's hall to hear him speak. Among them was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who was said to have drawn on Fawcett's experiences for his 1912 book The Lost World, in which explorers "disappear into the unknown" of South America and find, on a remote plateau, a land where dinosaurs have escaped extinction.

As Fawcett made his way to the gangplank that day in January, he eerily resembled one of the book's protagonists, Lord John Roxton:
Something there was of Napoleon III, something of Don Quixote, and yet again something which was the essence of the English country gentleman._._._._He has a gentle voice and a quiet manner, but behind his twinkling blue eyes there lurks a capacity for furious wrath and implacable resolution, the more dangerous because they are held in leash.

None of Fawcett's previous expeditions compared with what he was about to do, and he could barely conceal his impatience, as he fell into line with the other passengers boarding the S.S. Vauban. The ship, advertised as "the finest in the world," was part of the Lamport & Holt elite "V" class. The Germans had sunk several of the company's ocean liners during the First World War, but this one had survived, with its black, salt-streaked hull and elegant white decks and striped funnel billowing smoke into the sky. Model T Fords shepherded passengers to the dock, where longshoremen helped cart luggage into the ship's hold. Many of the male passengers wore silk ties and bowler hats; women had on fur coats and feathered caps, as if they were attending a society event, which, in some ways, they were-the passenger lists of luxury ocean liners were chronicled in gossip columns and scoured by young girls searching for eligible bachelors.

Fawcett pushed forward with his gear. His trunks were loaded with guns, canned food, powdered milk, flares, and handcrafted machetes. He also carried a kit of surveying instruments: a sextant and a chronometer for determining latitude and longitude, an aneroid for measuring atmospheric pressure, and a glycerin compass that could fit in his pocket. Fawcett had chosen each item based on years of experience; even the clothes he had packed were made of lightweight, tear-proof gabardine. He had seen men die from the most innocuous seeming oversight-a torn net, a boot that was too tight.

Fawcett was setting out into the Amazon, a wilderness nearly the size of the continental United States, to make what he called "the great discovery of the century"-a lost civilization. By then, most of the world had been explored, its veil of enchantment lifted, but the Amazon remained as mysterious as the dark side of the moon. As Sir John Scott Keltie, the former secretary of the Royal Geographical Society and one of the world's most acclaimed geographers at the time, noted, "What is there no one knows."

Ever since Francisco de Orellana and his army of Spanish conquistadores descended the Amazon River, in 1542, perhaps no place on the planet had so ignited the imagination-or lured men to their death. Gaspar de Carvajal, a Dominican friar who accompanied Orellana, described woman warriors in the jungle who resembled the mythical Greek Amazons. Half a century later, Sir Walter Raleigh spoke of Indians with "their eyes in their shoulders, and their mouths in the middle of their breasts"-a legend that Shakespeare wove into Othello:
Of the Cannibals that each other eat,
The Anthropophagi and men whose heads Do grow beneath their shoulders.

What was true about the region-serpents as long as trees, rodents the size of pigs-was sufficiently beyond belief that no embellishment seemed too fanciful. And the most entrancing vision of all was of El Dorado. Raleigh claimed that the kingdom, which the conquistadores had heard about from Indians, was so plentiful in gold that its inhabitants ground the metal into powder and blew it "thorow hollow canes upon their naked bodies untill they be al shining from the foote to the head."

Yet each expedition that had tried to find El Dorado ended in disaster. Carvajal, whose party had been searching for the kingdom, wrote in his diary, "We reached a [state of] privation so great that we were eating nothing but leather, belts and soles of shoes, cooked with certain herbs, with the result that so great was our weakness that we could not remain standing." Some four thousand men died during that expedition alone, of starvation and disease, and at the hands of Indians defending their territory with arrows dipped in poison. Other El Dorado parties resorted to cannibalism. Many explorers went mad. In 1561, Lope de Aguirre led his men on a murderous rampage, screaming, "Does God think that, because it is raining, I am not going to_._._._destroy the world?" Aguirre even stabbed his own child, whispering, "Commend thyself to God, my daughter, for I am about to kill thee." Before the Spanish crown sent forces to stop him, Aguirre warned in a letter, "I swear to you, King, on my word as a Christian, that if a hundred thousand men came, none would escape. For the reports are false: there is nothing on that river but despair." Aguirre's companions finally rose up and killed him; his body was quartered, and Spanish authorities displayed the head of the "Wrath of God" in a steel cage. Still, for three centuries, expeditions continued to search, until, after a toll of death and suffering worthy of Joseph Conrad, most archeologists had concluded that El Dorado was no more than a delusion.

Fawcett, however, was certain that the Amazon contained a fabulous kingdom, and he was not another soldier of fortune or a crackpot. A man of science, he had spent years gathering evidence to prove his case-digging up artifacts, studying petroglyphs, and interviewing tribes. And after fierce battles with skeptics Fawcett had received funding from the most respected scientific institutions, including the Royal Geographical Society, the American Geographical Society, and the Museum of the American Indian. Newspapers were proclaiming that Fawcett would soon startle the world. The Atlanta Constitution declared, "It is perhaps the most hazardous and certainly the most spectacular adventure of the kind ever undertaken by a reputable scientist with the backing of conservative scientific bodies."

Fawcett had concluded that an ancient, highly cultured people still existed in the Brazilian Amazon and that their civilization was so old and sophisticated it would forever alter the Western view of the Americas. He had christened this lost world the City of Z. "The central place I call 'Z'-our main objective-is in a valley_._._._about ten miles wide, and the city is on an eminence in the middle of it, approached by a barreled roadway of stone," Fawcett had stated earlier. "The houses are low and windowless, and there is a pyramidal temple."

Reporters on the dock in Hoboken, across the Hudson River from Manhattan, shouted questions, hoping to learn the location of Z. In the wake of the technological horrors of the Great War, and amid the spread of urbanization and industrialization, few events so captivated the world. One newspaper exulted, "Not since the days when Ponce de Le—n crossed the unknown Florida in search of the Waters of Perpetual Youth_._._._has a more alluring adventure been planned."

Fawcett welcomed "the fuss," as he described it in a letter to a friend, but he was careful about how he responded. He knew that his main rival, Alexander Hamilton Rice, a multimillionaire American doctor who commanded vast resources, was already entering the jungle with an unprecedented array of equipment. The prospect of Dr. Rice finding Z terrified Fawcett. Several years earlier, Fawcett had watched as a colleague from the Royal Geographical Society, Robert Falcon Scott, had set out to become the first explorer to reach the South Pole, only to discover, shortly before he froze to death, that his Norwegian rival, Roald Amundsen, had beaten him by thirty-three days. In a recent letter to the Royal Geographical Society, Fawcett wrote, "I cannot say all I know, or even be precise as to locality, for these things leak out, and there can be nothing so bitter to the pioneer as to find the crown of his work anticipated."

He was also afraid that if he released details of his route, and others attempted to find Z or rescue him, it would result in countless deaths. An expedition of fourteen hundred armed men had previously vanished in the same region. A news bulletin telegraphed around the globe declared, "Fawcett Expedition_._._._to Penetrate Land Whence None Returned." And Fawcett, who was resolved to reach the most inaccessible areas, did not intend, like other explorers, to go by boat; rather, he planned to hack straight through the jungle on foot. The Royal Geographical Society had warned that Fawcett "is about the only living geographer who could successfully attempt" such an expedition and that "it would be hopeless for any people to follow in his footsteps." Before he left England, Fawcett confided to his younger son, Brian, "If with all my experience we can't make it, there's not much hope for others."

As reporters clamored around him, Fawcett explained that only a small expedition would have any chance of survival. It would be able to live off the land, and not pose a threat to hostile Indians. The expedition, he had stated, "will be no pampered exploration party, with an army of bearers, guides and cargo animals. Such top-heavy expeditions get nowhere; they linger on the fringe of civilization and bask in publicity. Where the real wilds start, bearers are not to be had anyway, for fear of the savages. Animals cannot be taken because of lack of pasture and the attack of insects and bats. There are no guides, for no one knows the country. It is a matter of cutting equipment to the absolute minimum, carrying it all oneself, and trusting that one will be able to exist by making friends with the various tribes one meets." He now added, "We will have to suffer every form of exposure._._._._We will have to achieve a nervous and mental resistance, as well as physical, as men under these conditions are often broken by their minds succumbing before their bodies."

Fawcett had chosen only two people to go with him: his twenty-one-year-old son, Jack, and Jack's best friend, Raleigh Rimell. Although they had never been on an expedition, Fawcett believed that they were ideal for the mission: tough, loyal, and, because they were so close, unlikely, after months of isolation and suffering, "to harass and persecute each other"-or, as was common on such expeditions, to mutiny. Jack was, as his brother Brian put it, "the reflection of his father": tall, frighteningly fit, and ascetic. Neither he nor his father smoked cigarettes or drank. Brian noted that Jack's "six feet three inches were sheer bone and muscle, and the three chief agents of bodily degeneration-alcohol, tobacco and loose living-were revolting to him." Colonel Fawcett, who followed a strict Victorian code, put it slightly differently: "He is_._._._absolutely virgin in mind and body."

Jack, who had wanted to accompany his father on an expedition since he was a boy, had spent years preparing-lifting weights, maintaining a rigid diet, studying Portuguese, and learning how to navigate by the stars. Still, he had suffered little real deprivation, and his face, with its luminescent skin, crisp mustache, and slick brown hair, betrayed none of the hardness of his father's. With his stylish clothes, he looked more like a movie star, which is what he hoped to become upon his triumphant return.

Raleigh, though smaller than Jack, was still nearly six feet tall and muscular. (A "fine physique," Fawcett told the R.G.S.) His father had been a surgeon in the Royal Navy and had died of cancer in 1917, when Raleigh was fifteen. Dark-haired, with a pronounced widow's peak and a riverboat gambler's mustache, Raleigh had a jocular, mischievous nature. "He was a born clown," said Brian Fawcett, the "perfect counterpart of the serious Jack." The two boys had been virtually inseparable since they roamed the Devonshire countryside around Seaton, England, where they grew up, riding bicycles and shooting rifles in the air. In a letter to one of Fawcett's confidants, Jack wrote, "Now we have Raleigh Rimell on board who is every bit as keen as I am._._._._He is the only intimate friend I have ever had. I knew him before I was seven years old and we have been more or less together ever since. He is absolutely honest and decent in every sense of the word and we know each other inside out."

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Table of Contents

Preface 3

1 We Shall Return 7

2 The Vanishing 17

3 The Search Begins 27

4 Buried Treasure 33

5 Blank Spots on the Map 48

6 The Disciple 58

7 Freeze-Dried Ice Cream, and Adrenaline Socks 66

8 Into the Amazon 71

9 The Secret Papers 89

10 The Green Hell 94

11 Dead Horse Camp 100

12 In the Hands of the Gods 102

13 Ransom 125

14 The Case for Z 129

15 El Dorado 148

16 The Locked Box 156

17 The Whole World Is Mad 160

18 A Scientific Obsession 183

19 An Unexpected Clue 193

20 Have No Fear 197

21 The Last Eyewitness 215

22 Dead or Alive 225

23 The Colonel's Bones 244

24 The Other World 256

25 Z 261

Acknowledgments 279

A Note on the Sources 283

Notes 285

Selected Bibliography 315

Index 327

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Introduction

"Suspenseful. . . . Rollicking. . . . Reads with all the pace and excitement of a movie thriller" —The New York Times

The introduction, questions, and suggestions for further reading that follow are designed to enhance your group’s discussion of David Grann’s gripping account of the mysterious disappearance of Great Britain's last great gentleman explorer, Percy Harrison Fawcett.

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Foreword

1. Books about explorers, adventurers, and extreme risk-takers like Jon Krakauer’s Eiger Dreams and Into the Wild, Caroline Alexander’s The Endurance, Joe Simpson’s Touching the Void, Nathaniel Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea, Sebastian Junger’s A Perfect Storm, and many others, have become extremely popular in recent years. What are the appeals of such books? What qualities does The Lost City of Z share with books of this kind? In what ways does it differ from them?

2. After time away from the jungle, Fawcett wrote: “Inexplicably—amazingly—I knew I loved that hell. Its fiendish grasp had captured me, and I wanted to see it again” [p. 116]. What drove Fawcett to plunge himself again and again into the dangers of the Amazon? What is the main force that drives him—obsession with finding the lost city, desire to prove himself against his competitors, a need to escape the confines of civilization, a spiritual quest?

3. In what ways is Fawcett a symbolic figure? What values does he embody? In what ways does he represent many of both the best and worst qualities of the British Empire?

4. Grann notes that some anthropologists and historians consider Fawcett’s view of the Indians enlightened for his era while others saw him as unable to transcend the prevailing racism of his own culture. How does he regard the Indians he encounters? How does he treat them?

5. How do Fawcett’s expeditions affect his wife Nina? How does she see her role in relation to him? In what ways does she succumb to his obsessions?

6. In what ways does The LostCity of Z challenge conventional views of the Amazon? What does it suggest about the current state of archeological research in the region?

7. What are some of the most fascinating and/or dreadful features of the Amazon jungle revealed in The Lost City of Z? How has the jungle been changed since Europeans first made contact with it?

8. What does The Lost City of Z reveal about the power of obsession? In what ways does Fawcett’s obsession draw others into its deadly gravitational pull?  

9. By what means does Grann maintain such a high level of suspense throughout the book? What does the interweaving of his own story—the story of his search for the truth about what happened to Fawcett and the story of his writing of the book itself—add to the total effect of The Lost City of Z?

10. After witnessing the mass carnage of World War I, Fawcett exclaims: “Civilization! Ye gods! To see what one has seen the word is an absurdity. It has been an insane explosion of the lowest human emotions” [p. 189]. In what ways does The Lost City of Z call into question conventional notions of civilization? What does it suggest about the supposed differences between advanced and primitive cultures?

11. What are Percy Harrison’s Fawcett’s most admirable qualities? What aspects of his character prove most troubling? Was James Murray right in accusing Fawcett of all but murdering him? [p. 139]. 

12. Near the end of the book, Grann writes about how biographers are often driven mad by the inability to fully comprehend their subjects. Of his own quest he says: “The finished story of Fawcett seemed to reside eternally beyond the horizon: a hidden metropolis of words and paragraphs, my own Z” [p. 303]. How well does Grann succeed in discovering and revealing the truth of Percy Fawcett?

13. Does Grann’s meeting with the anthropologist Michael Heckenberger in Kurikulo village confirm Fawcett’s belief in a lost ancient civilization? Is Fawcett’s search vindicated at last?

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Interviews & Essays

Q&A with David Grann, author of The Lost City of Z

When did you first stumble upon the story of Percy Fawcett and his search for an ancient civilization in the Amazon-and when did you realize this particular story had you in "the grip"?

While I was researching a story on the mysterious death of the world's greatest Sherlock Holmes expert, I came upon a reference to Fawcett's role in inspiring Arthur Conan Doyle's novel "The Lost World." Curious, I plugged Fawcett's name into a newspaper database and was amazed by the headlines that appeared, including "THREE MEN FACE CANNIBALS IN RELIC QUEST" and tribesmen "Seize Movie Actor Seeking to Rescue Fawcett." As I read each story, I became more and more curious-about how Fawcett's quest for a lost city and his disappearance had captivated the world; how for decades hundreds of scientists and explorers had tried to find evidence of Fawcett's missing party and the City of Z; and how countless seekers had disappeared or died from starvation, diseases, attacks by wild animals, or poisonous arrows. What intrigued me most, though, was the notion of Z. For years most scientists had considered the brutal conditions in the largest jungle in the world inimical to humankind, but more recently some archeologists had begun to question this longstanding view and believed that a sophisticated civilization like Z might have existed. Such a discovery would challenge virtually everything that was believed about the nature of the Amazon and what the Americas looked liked before the arrival of Christopher Columbus. Suddenly, the story had every tantalizing element--mystery, obsession, death, madness-as well as great intellectualstakes. Still, I probably didn't realize I was fully in the story's "grip" until I told my wife that I planned to take out an extra life insurance policy and follow Fawcett's trail into the Amazon.


Tell us about the discovery of Fawcett's previously unpublished diaries and logbooks.

Researching the book often felt like a kind of treasure hunt and nothing was more exciting than coming across these materials in an old chest in the house of one of Fawcett's grandchildren. Fawcett, who had been a British spy, was extremely secretive about his search for Z-in part because he didn't want his rivals to discover the lost city before he did and in part because he feared that too many people would die if they tried to follow in his wake. These old, crumbling diaries and logbooks held incredible clues to both Fawcett's life and death; what's more, they revealed a key to his clandestine route to the Lost City of Z.

In an attempt to retrace Fawcett's journey, many scientists and explorers have faced madness, kidnapping, and death. Did you ever hesitate to go to the Amazon?

I probably should have been more hesitant, especially after reading some of the diaries of members of other parties that had scoured the Amazon for a lost city. One seeker of El Dorado described reaching a state of "privation so great that we were eating nothing but leather, belts and soles of shoes, cooked with certain herbs, with the result that so great was our weakness that we could not remain standing." In that expedition alone, some four thousand men perished. Other explorers resorted to cannibalism. One searcher went so mad he stabbed his own child, whispering, "Commend thyself to God, my daughter, for I am about to kill thee." But to be honest, even after reading these accounts, I was so consumed by the story that I did not think much about the consequences-and one of the themes I try to explore in the book is the lethal nature of obsession.

When you were separated from your guide Paolo on the way to the Kuikuro village and seemingly lost and alone in the jungle, what was going through your mind?

Besides fear, I kept wondering what the hell I was doing on such a mad quest.

Paolo and you made a game of imagining what happened to Fawcett in the Amazon. Without giving anything away about the Lost City of Z, I was wondering if you came away with any final conclusions?

I don't want to give too much away; but, after poring over Fawcett's final letters and dispatches from the expedition and after interviewing many of the tribes that Fawcett himself had encountered, I felt as if I had come as close as possible to knowing why Fawcett and his party vanished.

In his praise for your book, Malcolm Gladwell asks a "central question of our age": "In the battle between man and a hostile environment, who wins?" Obviously, the jungle has won many times, but it seems man may be gaining. What are your thoughts on the deforestation taking place in the Amazon?

It is a great tragedy. Over the last four decades in Brazil alone, the Amazon has lost some two hundred and seventy thousand square miles of its original forest cover-an area bigger than France. Many tribes, including some I visited, are being threatened with extinction. Countless animals and plants, many of them with potential medicinal purposes, are also vanishing. One of the things that the book explores is how early Native American societies were often able to overcome their hostile environment without destroying it. Unfortunately, that has not been the case with the latest wave of trespassers.

You began this journey as a man who doesn't like to camp and has "a terrible sense of direction and tend[s] to forget where [you are] on the subway and miss[es] [your] stop in Brooklyn." Are you now an avid outdoorsman?

No. Once was enough for me!

Early in the book, you write, "Ever since I was young, I've been drawn to mystery and adventure tales." What have been some of your favorite books-past and present-that fall into this category?

I'm a huge Sherlock Holmes fan, and every few years go back and read the stories again. I do the same with many of Joseph Conrad's novels, including "Lord Jim." I'm always amazed at how he produced quest novels that reflected the Victorian era and yet seem to have been written with the wisdom of a historian looking back in time. As for more contemporary authors, I read a lot of crime fiction, especially the works of George Pelecanos and Michael Connelly. I also relish books, such as Jonathan Lethem's "Motherless Brooklyn," that cleverly play with this genre. Finally, there are the gripping yarns written by authors like Jon Krakauer and Nathaniel Philbrick-stories that are all the more spellbinding because they are true.

Brad Pitt and Paramount optioned The Lost City of Z in the spring. Any updates?

They have hired a screenwriter and director and seem to be moving forward at a good clip.

What are you working on now?

I recently finished a couple of crime stories for The New Yorker, including one about a Polish author who allegedly committed murder and then left clues about the real crime in his novel. Meanwhile, I'm hoping to find a tantalizing story, like "The Lost City of Z," that will lead to a new book.

Anything else you'd like to add?

Just that I hope that readers will enjoy "The Lost City of Z" and find the story of Fawcett and his quest as captivating as I did.

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Reading Group Guide

1. Books about explorers, adventurers, and extreme risk-takers like Jon Krakauer’s Eiger Dreams and Into the Wild, Caroline Alexander’s The Endurance, Joe Simpson’s Touching the Void, Nathaniel Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea, Sebastian Junger’s A Perfect Storm, and many others, have become extremely popular in recent years. What are the appeals of such books? What qualities does The Lost City of Z share with books of this kind? In what ways does it differ from them?

2. After time away from the jungle, Fawcett wrote: “Inexplicably—amazingly—I knew I loved that hell. Its fiendish grasp had captured me, and I wanted to see it again” [p. 116]. What drove Fawcett to plunge himself again and again into the dangers of the Amazon? What is the main force that drives him—obsession with finding the lost city, desire to prove himself against his competitors, a need to escape the confines of civilization, a spiritual quest?

3. In what ways is Fawcett a symbolic figure? What values does he embody? In what ways does he represent many of both the best and worst qualities of the British Empire?

4. Grann notes that some anthropologists and historians consider Fawcett’s view of the Indians enlightened for his era while others saw him as unable to transcend the prevailing racism of his own culture. How does he regard the Indians he encounters? How does he treat them?

5. How do Fawcett’s expeditions affect his wife Nina? How does she see her role in relation to him? In what ways does she succumb to his obsessions?

6. In what ways does The Lost City of Z challenge conventional views of the Amazon? What does it suggest about the current state of archeological research in the region?

7. What are some of the most fascinating and/or dreadful features of the Amazon jungle revealed in The Lost City of Z? How has the jungle been changed since Europeans first made contact with it?

8. What does The Lost City of Z reveal about the power of obsession? In what ways does Fawcett’s obsession draw others into its deadly gravitational pull?  

9. By what means does Grann maintain such a high level of suspense throughout the book? What does the interweaving of his own story—the story of his search for the truth about what happened to Fawcett and the story of his writing of the book itself—add to the total effect of The Lost City of Z?

10. After witnessing the mass carnage of World War I, Fawcett exclaims: “Civilization! Ye gods! To see what one has seen the word is an absurdity. It has been an insane explosion of the lowest human emotions” [p. 189]. In what ways does The Lost City of Z call into question conventional notions of civilization? What does it suggest about the supposed differences between advanced and primitive cultures?

11. What are Percy Harrison’s Fawcett’s most admirable qualities? What aspects of his character prove most troubling? Was James Murray right in accusing Fawcett of all but murdering him? [p. 139]. 

12. Near the end of the book, Grann writes about how biographers are often driven mad by the inability to fully comprehend their subjects. Of his own quest he says: “The finished story of Fawcett seemed to reside eternally beyond the horizon: a hidden metropolis of words and paragraphs, my own Z” [p. 303]. How well does Grann succeed in discovering and revealing the truth of Percy Fawcett?

13. Does Grann’s meeting with the anthropologist Michael Heckenberger in Kurikulo village confirm Fawcett’s belief in a lost ancient civilization? Is Fawcett’s search vindicated at last?

(For a complete list of available reading group guides, and to sign up for the Reading Group Center enewsletter, visit www.readinggroupcenter.com)

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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 583 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    TRUTH CAN BE STRANGER THAN FICTION

    This book revives a once popular figure that time had reduced to obscurity - Percy Harrison Fawcett. It describes his early explorations in parts of Bolivia, Brazil and Peru - usually just referred to as "the Amazon". It describes what is known of Fawcett's last exploration to find El Dorado as well as expeditions by others to find El Dorado or to discover the fate of Fawcett, his son Jack, and his son's friend Raleigh.

    Part of the attraction of the book is the presentation of the unique character of Fawcett. He proves that truth can be stranger than fiction. Fawcett was tougher than the fictitious Indiana Jones although Fawcett maintained the way to survive attacks by the most hostile natives was to refuse to fight them. He and his handful of companions in all but his final journey survived almost unbelievable odds and hardships through his mental and physical strength. It was obvious that Fawcett could be admired from a distance, but was probably justifiably seen as insensitive, obsessed and ruthless by his traveling companions. Part of the attraction of the book is the reconstruction of the era of the amateur, gentleman explorer, the public's fascination with them, and the Royal Geographical Society and similar organizations that funded them.

    The book also dispelled some of the romantic notions about expeditions to the Amazon. I might be willing to subject myself to the stereotyped hardships - heat, thirst, hunger, snakes, crocodiles, violent natives and even piranhas. However, after reading about the hordes of bloodthirsty mosquitoes, gnats, bees, ants and termites intent on leaving victims gory and blind, gruesome flies that plant maggots beneath the skin, and horrific vampire bats that swoop down in packs to rip flesh open, I was left amazed that anyone that had somehow survived such horror once would be willing to face it again.

    The reader is somewhat discouraged throughout the book as the ending appears to be apparent. The obvious assumption is that Fawcett's luck finally ran out and he and his party were violently killed by hostile natives. Also El Dorado obviously was never found or the discovery would have been heralded. The author's determination to discover the actual route of the Fawcett party leads to a surprise ending that justifies Fawcett's obsession and his revival from obscurity.

    15 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted March 1, 2009

    A Tropical Journey of Many Answers

    I am just a quarter through this excellent nonfiction, and I find that it easily explains through its wonderful writings the difference between the more honorable geographical explorers such as Fawcett (who was backed by the British Royal Georgraphic Society) compared to the Conquistadors such as Aguirre backed by Euroimperials. With Fawcett, the concept of "Z" (El Dorado) being a more anthrolopological expedition (rather than just metallic gold) to prove without doubt that human intelligence can exist and flourish within the deepest jungle (as opposed to the suggestion that primitivism as a result of some sort of human breakdown by the jungle can only exist). (The anthropological cultural significance can be compared to the current Coe's writings in their "The True History of Chocolate" where they found evidence that during the imperial time period, that the indigenous South Americans were as the Coe's wrote "light years" ahead of Europeans in the areas of medicine/botanics due to Europeans hanging on to ancient Greek medicinal codes). Fawcett's quest for "Z" a "City of Gold" was a search to prove that there is a highly advanced civilization in the deepest jungles. Of course, to find such a civilization or even a real city of gold, would be a treacherous undertaking as in mythological comparisions, or by the realities of learning to survive in a foreign place, a dense jungle, and with deadly obstacles brought in from the outside, or rather nearer to his own home country and other parts of Europe. The book suggests that during Fawcett's times, intelligence was seen as a culture that could create planes and trains, something beyond the normal scope of every day life. However, it is noted that some during that time period also believed an advanced culture such as "Z" could not be seen by those much less intelligent. (This is probably why they expected Fawcett could find it as he was supposed to be quite smart with some sort of patented technology he created to increase pace for the shipping industry). Fawcett propbably thought he would find "Z" since he took his son on the expedition. "The Lost City of Z" also gives quite a background of Fawcett and his culture as well as what was going on in the areas of his explorations such as the notorious rubber industry in South America. I had for the first time I can remember a dream that was influenced by a book. I actually had a dream regarding "The Lost City of Z" that caused me to further understand the explorers view and obsession with finding an advanced civilization, and that it probably may exist, though I would not try to find it. It is a book that really helps one understand a lot of issues including cultural issues, and the search for something enlightening. I am looking forward to reading the rest of this book. It is one of the best books I have ever read.

    Other interesting readings related to this:
    "Tears of the Tree: The Story of Rubber: A Modern Marvel" by John Loadman (Oxford University Press, 2005)

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted December 29, 2011

    Meh

    I love treasure hunts and exploring. But i also have a weakness for animals. I understand the need to learn about new species but i couldnt handle reading about horses being forced to stay in the river with swords so the men could see how long theyd survive with electric eels. I got a little under half way through before quitting. It bothers me to leave a book unfinished but i cant read about the experiments.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 24, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Lost City.

    This book chronicles the quest of Percy Harrison Fawcett to find the lost city of El Dorado which he nicknamed the city of Z. Fawcett had been told of a legendary city so "enormously rich in gold-so much so as to blaze like a fire". This began his life long obsession to find this mythical place. He embarked on his first South American expedition when he was commissioned by the Royal Geographic Society to map the border between Bolivia and Brazil. It was an arduous trip but he surprised everyone by completing the task in half the estimated time. He later embarked on a mission to find the source of the Rio Verde. It was a hellish trip where he and his crew were ravaged by insects, a brutal trek through the forest and biting hunger. At a certain point in the journey, they were forced to do away with all but the basic necessities. They even abandoned any food that they could not immediately carry believing that they would be able to live off the land, it was after all the forest and they assumed that it would be teeming with animals they could hunt and eat. But they discover to their dismay that this forest was inhospitable. The trees drained all the nutrients out of the soil leaving the jungle floor in almost total darkness. Animals avoided the jungle floor and Fawcett and his team found themselves hungry most of the time. But upon returning home from this ordeal he was soon restless again. He said " It was the voice of the wild places and I knew that it was now a part of me forever. Inexplicably, amazing, I knew I loved that hell. Its fiendish grasp had captured me and I wanted to see it again".

    Of all the expeditions that Fawcett would embark on, the search for Z would be his most important. He researched and gathered information that he believed supported his theory of Z and after he secured some funding he again set off for the Amazon. He took with him his son Jack and Jack's best friend Raleigh Rimmel. They received a rousing sendoff from the world's media and were treated like celebrities everywhere they went. But once they reached the Amazon and had sent out a few communiques, they were never heard from again.

    After the disappearance of the Fawcett party, many initiatives were launched to find them or news of them. Some who survived came back with tales of Fawcett's death by Indians, some said he had been kidnapped by Indians. Some even claimed that there was evidence that Fawcett had indeed found Z. There was even a purported sighting of a child believed to be Jack Fawcett's son. Someone even claimed to have found Fawcett's bones which later turned out to be the bones of a long dead Indian. This story is fascinating in all its essentials. Its heartbreakingly sad how this man was so consumed by the idea of this city that he followed it to his and his family's destruction. Regardless of how he met his end, we can tell that it was most likely not a happy one. He left behind a wife who died in extreme poverty, a son who continued to seek his father's approval by trying to continue his father's work and a daughter who never got to know her father. It is impossible not to admire many aspects of Fawcett's personality. He was a very hard worker, he was undeterred by the constant rejection that he faced in his search to achieve this goal and he serves as a model for never giving up. But in this case, never giving up proves to be his greatest undoing as passion became obsession very quickly. Amazing read that enlig

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 15, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Best Adventure you can without leaving your house

    This is a great read. Grann has written the type of nonfiction book that I like the most--he has all these little side stories and interesting tidbits of history that are extra information but still fit the main subject of the story. I enjoyed all of it--the history of Percy Fawcett (who sounds like a hell of a guy), the investigation by the author, the detailed accounts of all the nasty bugs and animals there (the flesh-eating maggots had to be the worst). This is a great adventure/mystery book. I enjoyed the information about the archaelogical finds in the Amazon and Grann even touched on the deforestation of the Amazon without sounding preachy or crazy. This is a good book, lots of details, and I had a hard time putting it down.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 15, 2010

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    I Also Recommend:

    A GREAT book to take on a backpacking, hiking, or camping trip!

    A great mix of the past and present. I found Grann's writing style very absorbing and very hard to put down! You not only get to follow the steps of a famous explorer lost long ago, but also get to follow the author as he searches for clues to what happened to Fawcett and if his lost city in South America can be found. This is pretty much a true adventure book! I really could picture myself with both Fawcett and Grann fighting my way through jungles of the past. It would make a great book to take on a backpacking, camping, hiking trip!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 9, 2010

    An Amazing and True Story!

    The classic story of one man acting on his beliefs and going against the traditional thinking of his time. It was very rewarding to learn that Colonel Fawcett was correct in his beliefs about about civilization in the Amazon. This book made me realize how the traditionalist thinking of government and academia resist the advancement of knowledge to preserve their invested positions and beliefs. Mankind's knowledge advances despite these institutions due to the courage of individuals that are willing to go against the conventional and traditional thinking promoted by these instigutions. A VERY good read!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2010

    Great Read!

    I don't read nonfiction often, but this book was great! Unlike other nonfiction I've read it was written in narrative form for the most part. The story of Colonel Percy Jackson is not one I'd heard before, and Grann was able to tell it very well. I would highly recommend this can't put it down read for any history buff.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 4, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Reads like fiction, but it's all true...

    Subtitled: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon --

    Who hasn't watched the movies where an explorer or adventurer discovers a lost world or civilization? I personally am fascinated by the whole idea that there may still be some untouched or unfound something out there.

    The Lost City of Z isn't fiction - it's an incredible true story. In 1925 famed explorer Percy Fawcett set out to find the fabled city of El Dorado or as he referred to it - The Lost City of Z. Dispatches were sent back documenting his journey for the first two years, but then he and his expedition vanished - no trace of them ever to be heard of again. Many others followed, looking for Fawcett or his golden city. None have ever found it.

    David Grann, a staff writer for the New Yorker magazine, became enthralled with Fawcett's story as well. Grann discovers some of Fawcett's old journals that give him additional information on Fawcett's planned expedition. He decides to head to the Amazon himself and trace the explorer's route.

    What follows is an absolutely riveting tale. The history of Fawcett and other adventurers bent on mapping and mastering the Amazon is utterly fascinating. The book alternates between Fawcett's time, drawing on newspapers, journals and letters to present a real picture of his time and Grann's own growing obsession and pilgrimage. I had to keep reminding myself that this was real - documented history. I honestly couldn't put it down. Does he discover what happened to Fawcett and his lost party - well I'll leave that for you to explore.

    Brad Pitt is rumoured to be starring in a film version of The Lost City of Z coming out in 2010.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 17, 2011

    Reads like a suspense novel

    I read this book when it first came out & I just couldn't put it down! Even though the main characters are real people, this book reads like a Suspense Novel! I sat up to the wee hours of the morning until I finished reading this book. I couldn't stop reading until I found out everything that happened! David Grann talks about the Amazon with such passion that you can't help but feeling like you are right there inside the pages of this book. It's a "must read!"

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 6, 2010

    An Interesting Read

    Well written with an excellent pace despite a barrage of factoids and dates, this well researched book provides a peek into the psyche and motivations of all those individuals that call themselves "explorers". Structured around a biography of the mysterious disappearance of British explorer Percy Fawcett while searching for the lost city of Z, the author does a great job of weaving the culture and prevailing thinking of the times and the mystery of the wilderness around the Amazon River.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 22, 2009

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    Diary of a time long past...

    A meticulously researched chronicle of Colonel Percy Fawcett and his many expeditions into the Amazon at the turn of the century.

    He was an extraordinary man; a quick learner, possessor of an iron will, steely determination and an unrivaled confidence in his abilities. He truly went where none had gone before.

    This is the story of his education by the Royal Geographic Society, his many expeditions into the Amazon jungles, and finally his search for the spectacular Lost City of Z. It tells of his family, colleagues and later the researchers who tried to find him and any trace of his final lost expedition.

    You get the feeling that you are step in step with Fawcett in his travels, with occasional insights into the how and why of his world.

    Later, the author, a non-traveler, takes his own journey to the Amazon jungle to try and follow Fawcett and possibly find out definitively what became of him.

    Does he succeed? It's well worth the time to find out!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2009

    Good story, bad end

    The basic premise of this book sounded awesome and the book stared out that way. However, the ending was disappointing. I didn't feel that the author actually ever gave a good final account of what happened to the explorer's. The author talks in the final chapter that he is tired and wants to go home and that's where he leaves the ending. So the reader is still left wondering why all the research to prove so much of the beginning of the book and at the end just say, here's what I think happened and I'm going home.

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2013

    I really enjoyed this!

    This was one of those reads that just leaves you amazed at the world we live in. It would have been great for fiction, and it is just incredible that it is not. Goes between present day and the story of the explorer the author is trying to find, and both tales are riveting. One of the few books I told other people about while I was reading it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2013

    Nonstop adventure

    An incredible strange well written twisted tale, which kept me riveted to my nook, a completely satisfying read delving into excitement, mystery, adventure, and crazy imagination a nonstop thriller. I love reading historical non-fiction books, felt sad when I finished. I read a review that said "Percey Fewcett was the Forrest Gump of his time" LOL. If you enjoyed this book, you might also enjoy reading "Longitude" by Dava Sobel. A good short story on the history of technology and race to solve the longitude problem, a tale of John Harrison, a carpenter turned clockmaker.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2012

    Fascinating

    One of the best books I have read

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2013

    Exciting, well written, impressed !!

    Having lived in South America, lived in the tropics of Bolivia and jungle of Peru all my senses became alive with the adventures of the seekers of the Lost City. My father was a civil enginner and was exposes to many of the elements that was written in the book. Worth reading more than once !!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 22, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Interesting and informative account of British explorer Percy Fawcett's obsession with finding an ancient "lost" city in South America.

    A well-written, although sometimes hard to follow, account of the attempts by British explorer, Percy Fawcett, to find the location of an ancient city that was supposedly inhabited by an advanced and very wealthy Indian civilization. His efforts are reported by the book's author, David Grann, who attempts to track Fawcett's last journey into the Amazon river region of Brazil where Fawcett and his companion were lost and never heard from again. The descriptions of Fawcett's courage, determination and perseverance are remarkable and mark him as a truly special person. He was also strongly supported in every way by his wife who, to her death many years after his disappearance, never gave up hope that her husband was still alive and would someday return.
    A good adventure story that provided an insight into the mentality of those who risk their lives and suffer greatly while trying to increase the world's knowledge of little-known places and societies.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 19, 2010

    fantastic book!

    Highly recommended... a great mix of adventure, history, and biography. Very well researched and I loved learning about not only Fawcett but other explorers from the late 18th/early 19th century. Very well written as well.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2010

    great non fiction for the fiction reader!

    I have to first say that I am a tried and true non fiction reader! You'd be hard pressed to find a fiction book on my shelf that has been more than leafed thru. That being said...I loved this book. At the check out, the clerk recommended it to me and I was leary, but once I started reading it, I was hooked. Very adventurous and fun. I was ready to go on a treasure hunt when I was done reading it! buy this book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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