a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Author finds Col. Fawcett's land of Z

By Scott Beveridge

True stories penned by journalists always seem to appeal to my reading tastes.

And no other such author has captured my imagination and adventurous spirit more than David Grann in his “The Lost City of Z.”

Grann uses the book to chronicle his obsession to trace the trail of British explorer Percy Fawcett, whose disappearance in the Amazon became one of the greatest mysteries of the 20th century.

He immediately lured me into the story in the preface, a chapter in books that I usually tend to overlook for their snobbery prose.

But, Grann ended his book’s introduction with a story about his being mosquito bitten and hungry in the jungle, only to have been startled by shadowy figures among the bush. “What the hell am I doing here?” he asked himself.

There was no turning back from the pages of this National Bestseller.

They revealed that Fawcett was the inspiration for many of the jungle adventures featured in movies starring Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, as well as Harrison Ford. It appeared Fawcett even inspired many comic book, television and other characters whom appealed to children of my generation, too.

Fawcett, after surviving service in World War I, was a washed up explorer when he secured the funding and set off in 1925 with his son, Jack, and another companion in 1925 in search of a glittering gold city they believed had survived, unchanged in Brazilian jungle.

A number of wild-eyed theories about Fawcett's fate would follow, including one that he found an eternal underground utopia, while more than 100 people died in search of his party.

Grann, who admitted his physical limitations early on, still pushed forward in his attempts to solve the mystery despite reports before his trip that gunman had killed a 73-year-old nun in the territory he would soon visit.

The New Yorker staff writer believed he eventually found Z, and that Fawcett was on target when he apparently died at the hands of hostile Indians. Grann made an excellent case for his findings.

They are too fascinating to spoil here; take this excellent journey on your own. It's that good.

No comments: