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Skeletons On The Zahara


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In the tradition of In the HEART OF THE SEA and A PERFECT STORM, a gripping story of survival in the 19th century Sahara.

About the Author

Dean King is the author of a biography of Patrick O'Brian, 'a model of how these things should be' - Telegraph 'Books of the Year', as well as other historical adventure novels. He lives in Richmond, Virginia with his wife and two daughters.


In 1815, 12 men boarded the merchant ship Commerce in Connecticut, bound for the Cape Verde Islands after a brief stopover in Gibraltar. Weather and unfamiliar surroundings, however, caused the ship to wreck on the inhospitable coast of what is now Mauritania. Taken as slaves by regional nomads and separated (some never to be seen again), the dozen sailors endured great hardships. King (Patrick O'Brian: A Life Revealed) rivets with this account of Captain Riley's nine weeks of captivity: traveling inland nearly 800 miles, then back west, and finally north to Morocco, where he was luckily ransomed by an American consul. Referencing Riley's journals and those of crewman Robbin (which became best sellers in their day), King writes an astoundingly researched treatise on Islamic customs, nomadic life, and desert natural history, as well as detailed descriptions of dehydration, starvation, and caloric intake. Included are an 85-title bibliography, detailed maps of the northwest coast of Mauritania and Morocco, a glossary of Arabic terms, and wonderful photographs of King's own trip as he retraced Captain Riley's journey of enslavement. A wonderful, inspiring story of humankind's will to survive in spite of inhospitable conditions and inhumane treatment, this work should be in all public libraries, maritime libraries, and African collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/03.]-Jim Thorsen, Weaverville, NC Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Known for his biography of the elusive Patrick O'Brian...Dean King has emerged from the great man's shadow with a compelling work in his own right... Once ashore, King's narrative, like Riley's leadership, grows in stature and certaintly... As King notes, the understanding, respect and compassion between these representatives of the Christian and Muslim worlds offers a timely example in our own troubled age. * Sunday Times *
Genuinely gripping, full of twists and turns of fate ... mesmerising ... The torturous journey, with parched tongues and aching bones, in constant fear of bandits who might capture and enslave them, is described in unsparing detail ... The game of bluff and double bluff kept the crewmen's lives on a knife-edge. If you want to know the ending, the Hollywood movie can't be too far behind. * Daily Mail *
Dean King has brought to life one of the great, true-life adventure stories - a riveting tale of suffering and redemption -- Nathaniel Philbrick

When the American cargo ship Commerce ran aground on the northwestern shores of Africa in 1815 along with its crew of 12 Connecticut-based sailors, the misfortunes that befell them came fast and hard, from enslavement to reality-bending bouts of dehydration. King's aggressively researched account of the crew's once-famous ordeal reads like historical fiction, with unbelievable stories of the seamen's endurance of heat stroke, starvation and cruelty by their Saharan slavers. King (Patrick O'Brian: A Life Revealed), who went to Africa and, on camel and foot, retraced parts of the sailors' journey, succeeds brilliantly at making the now familiar sandscape seem as imposing and new as it must have been to the sailors. Every dromedary step thuds out from the pages with its punishing awkwardness, and each drop of brackish found water reprieves and tortures with its perpetual insufficiency. King's leisurely prose style rounds out the drama with well-parceled-out bits of context, such as the haggling barter culture of the Saharan nomadic Arabs and the geological history of Western Africa's coastline. Zahara (King's use of older and/or phonetic spellings helps evoke the foreignness of the time and place) impresses with its pacing, thoroughness and empathy for the plight of a dozen sailors heaved smack-hard into an unknown tribalism. By the time the surviving crew members make it back to their side of civilization, reader and protagonist alike are challenged by new ways of understanding culture clash, slavery and the place of Islam in the social fabric of desert-dwelling peoples. Maps, illus. (Feb. 16) Forecast: A major media campaign, including ads in the New York Times Book Review, USA Today and Time; radio and TV interviews; and a six-city author tour will ignite interest in this captivating adventure tale. The book has earned advance praise from Nathaniel Philbrick (In the Heart of the Sea) and Doug Stanton (In Harm's Way). Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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