The Snakebite Survivors' Club: Travels among Serpents

The Snakebite Survivors' Club: Travels among Serpents

by Jeremy Seal

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Snakes are Jeremy Seal's fascination-and his greatest fear. In an attempt to overcome his phobia, he undertakes a voyage to Australia, Africa, India, and America in search of the most notorious and deadly species, and to meet the people who live among them. He encounters a Kenyan snake man, whose entire life seems like a preparation for a bite from the terrible


Snakes are Jeremy Seal's fascination-and his greatest fear. In an attempt to overcome his phobia, he undertakes a voyage to Australia, Africa, India, and America in search of the most notorious and deadly species, and to meet the people who live among them. He encounters a Kenyan snake man, whose entire life seems like a preparation for a bite from the terrible black mamba; witch doctors, who use snakes as instruments of vengeance; frightened Australian convicts; and even a preacher in the Deep South, who uses his church's rattlesnakes to try to murder his wife. Along the way Seal recounts amazing scientific snake lore, legends, and historical facts. An erudite but highly entertaining narrative in the English travel-writing tradition, and a finalist for the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award, The Snakebite Survivors' Club tells a funny, gruesomely fascinating account of the world of snakes and the people they repel, mesmerize, and sometimes kill.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Highly entertaining . . . An ingenious narrative, full of beautiful descriptions of the tragic and the hilarious . . . An intelligent and richly enjoyable work."-The Mail on Sunday
"Seal's descriptions of the creatures are elegant, exotic and sensual."-The Sunday Times (London)
"A highly charged mix of snake snippets, travel writing, tall tales, and entertaining anecdotes . . . A white-knuckled read."-The Daily Mail Review
The Snakebite Survivors' Club is an eerily indulgent read. Far from your average adventure travel tale, it's wide enough in scope to please those looking for a horror movie-esque around-the-world epic, as well as those who are after a fresh perspective on America, India, Australia, and Africa from a seasoned travel writers' perspective. However, those easily freaked out should beware. Seal describes the biology, physiology, and cultural lore of each snake so masterfully that you'll likely look twice the next time you go outside, no matter where you live. I read The Snakebite Survivors' Club while lying on the grass in a park, and after every few pages I'd jump up in terror, fearing that there was a slithering creature lurking nearby. And I live in New York City.

Seal's writing style is appropriately distanced without being removed from the story at hand. At the beginning of The Snakebite Survivors' Club he recounts the trepidation that overcame him years ago when he stood outside the entrance to the Reptile House at the London Zoo. In that brief chapter the reader perfectly understands Seal as a person and as an ophidiophobe. This chapter isn't just background; it's an introduction in the truest sense, helping Seal become instantly endeared to the reader as a fantastic writer, a dryly humorous storyteller, and a fallible, friendly person.

In the book, Seal goes to America in search of a woman whose husband tried to kill her by forcing her to handle poisonous snakes; to Africa to come face-to-face with the deadly black mamba; to Australia to meet a fearless snakebite survivor named Dundee, and to India where he finds that snakes are more revered than feared for their menacing power. His narration of these travels is packed with historiography and impeccable research. Seal takes great pains to contextualize each of his far-flung journeys by detailing the historical relationship between each location, snakebite survivor, and particular snake.

Emily Burg is a fearless freelance writer who lives in New York City.

Sunday Telegraph
The Snakebite Survivor's Club is about the real thing...Jeremy Seal writes beautifully, he is adept at scene setting and at building tension, and he has plucked some wonderful anecdotes from his wide-ranging trawl of herpetological literature. As he crosses the globe his narrative mixes travel, history, snake lore and thriller; the body count builds remorselessly as early settlers and modern unfortunates meet a succession of grisly ends.
Andrew Horton
In The Snakebite Survivors's Club, Mr. Seal has a gift for bringing to life the sensations caused by snakebite. He endeavors to meet as many people as he can who have survived attacks from this and other contenders for the title worlds' deadliest snake. Although his deepest insight into man's relationship with snakes may simply be "Don't get bitten", Mr. Seal's book is no less worthwhile.
Wall Street Journal
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Equal parts exotic adventure, naturalist lore, soul-baring confessional and offbeat history, this elegant travelogue focuses on serpents--in the wild, in diverse cultures and in myth, religion and the popular imagination. Determined to overcome his lifelong fear of snakes--and to probe his obsession with them--English journalist Seal sought out and interviewed snake-bite survivors and snake experts on four continents. His maverick odyssey opens with a Southern gothic horror tale in Alabama, where a wife-beating, hard-drinking, snake-handling preacher tries to murder his wife by getting his church's diamondback rattlesnakes to bite her. In both Alabama and Tennessee, Seal attends rapturous congregations where handling of venomous snakes is part of Christian ritual (literally following the biblical injunction, "They shall take up serpents"). In Australia, he meets a Stetson-wearing outbacker (named Dundee, of course) who survived a lethal snake bite. Through tales of snake lore, Seal charts Australia's metamorphosis from dumping-ground for convicts to independent frontier nation. In south India, he found that the traditional Hindu reverence for snakes persists, in sharp contrast to the West, where the serpent is usually associated with sin or evil. In Kenya, Seal visits a snake park and meets mchowis (witch doctors) who dispatch snakes to bite wrongdoers. In 1776, a rattlesnake with 13 rattles adorned the American flag, symbol of the rebellious colonists' fierce independence. Seal's delightful book may forever change the way readers think about snakes; his serpentine forays into human folly, superstition, courage, fear, cruelty and benevolence verge on the Monty Pythonesque, and his footloose, open-minded spirit recalls Bruce Chatwin. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
In his debut, A Fez of the Heart (LJ 4/1/96), Seals journeyed to Turkey in search of the symbolic hat, providing readers with an entertaining and insightful portrait of a country. In this account, Seal shares an even more unusual trek that enabled him to confront his fears of snakes, activate his imagination, and satisfy his curiosity. Visiting America, Africa, Australia, and India, Seal sought out a variety of unusual and poisonous snakes and discovered snake-related folklore, superstitions, worshipers, religious cults, and naturalists. Filled with a wealth of well-researched and entertaining information on everything from the python and mamba to the puff adder and cobra, this is as much a natural history book as a travelog. At times it will have you laughing, at others shaking your head in disgust. The only drawback is the lack of chronological order, which distracts from the flow of the book as a whole. Nonetheless, the content is excellent and proves an eye-opening read. Recommended for all public libraries.--Jo-Anne Mary Benson, Osgoode, Ont. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Travel writer Seal determined to overcome his phobia about snakes by journeying to America, Australia, Africa, and India in search of some the world's most notorious and deadly snakes and to meet the people who live with them. He found others like him living in constant fear, witch doctors who use snakes as instruments of vengeance, and a case of murder by rattle snake in the southern US. He also cites scientific facts. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

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Meet the Author

Jeremy Seal has written for numerous English newspapers. His first book, A Fez of the Heart, was chosen as a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year and short-listed for the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award. His second book, The Snakebite Survivor's Club, was a New York Public Library Exceptional Book of the Year. He lives in Bath, England, with his wife and daughters.

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