Product Description

A grand mystery reaching back centuries. A sensational disappearance that made headlines around the world. A quest for truth that leads to death, madness or disappearance for those who seek to solve it. The Lost City of Z is a blockbuster adventure narrative about what lies beneath the impenetrable jungle canopy of the Amazon. After stumbling upon a hidden trove of diaries, acclaimed New Yorker writer David Grann set out to solve "the greatest exploration mystery of the twentieth century:" What happened to the British explorer Percy Fawcett and his quest for the Lost City of Z? In 1925 Fawcett ventured into the Amazon to find an ancient civilization, hoping to make one of the most important discoveries in history. For centuries Europeans believed the worlds largest jungle concealed the glittering kingdom of El Dorado. Thousands had died looking for it, leaving many scientists convinced that the Amazon was truly inimical to humankind. 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 Fawcetts party and the lost City of Z. Countless have perished, been captured by tribes, or gone mad.

February 15, 2009 - Review by Karla Starr - LA Times

For each summit reached or Machu Picchu-like discovery, the history of exploration marks more deaths and failures than can be counted, armies of men after whom nothing was named, who spent their lives chasing after the unnamable.

The Amazon biodiverse, so unknown, so full of life while having obliterated so many explorers has been, for many, that singular, unconquerable thing.

The need to articulate or define such a point gave rise to the legend of El Dorado, a mythical city in the Amazon said to be filled with uncounted riches. That legend started in the 16th century, when Indians began recounting stories of such a civilization to Spanish conquistadors. Wasn't it too tempting not to believe? But after hundreds of years of hearsay, countless armies had been driven to what David Grann calls "financial ruin, destitution, starvation, cannibalism, murder, death: these seemed to be the only real manifestations of El Dorado."

In "The Lost City of Z," New Yorker staff writer Grann expands his 2005 feature for that magazine, illuminating Col. Percy Fawcett's doomed trek into the Amazon searching for the lost civilization that he dubbed Z. (One question he fails to address: Why did no one write this book before?) Fawcett counts not just among the formerly obsessed but also as part of current legend: His remains have yet to be found since he disappeared in 1925, his life reportedly inspired the creation of the character Indiana Jones, and copycat efforts have led to more than 100 known deaths.

Grann expertly juggles narratives, including the story of a famous, ill-fated 1996 mission to retrace Fawcett's steps; the history of exploration in the Amazon; and Fawcett's own venture toward Z. It's hard to imagine that Grann left any worthwhile stone uncovered, after visiting Fawcett's granddaughter, the Royal Geographical Society's archives in London, Brazil's National Library in Rio de Janeiro and a fair share of archaeologists. Grann combines narrative and primary documents for a breathtaking clarity of scene and immediacy; any writer who can breathe life into letters written by scientists in the early 1900s deserves more than a hat tip. Grann brings Fawcett's remarkable story to a beautifully written, perfectly paced fruition.

Revealing the Mysteries of the Amazon - Review by Erika Borsos

David Grann did a vast amount of reading and research to create a book which holds the reader's interest from start to finish. One feels the strong principles and beliefs which Percy Fawcett developed over time which would not let up until he made his last and most dangerous trek into the jungle to find the lost "City of Z" which he named the ancient city he was seeking. The author writes a superb biography of this adventurer and explorer. The dangers and risks are described in detail which anyone faced who entered this wild environment. There were hostile Indian tribes. Besides the threat of being killed by Indians, explorers faced malaria infested mosquitos, pirhanas, maggots that burrowed under human flesh and the deadly pit viper snake. We must keep in mind that there were no antibiotics or other medicines to treat various illnesses. Amazingly, the author also chose to enter the Amazon jungle and retrace the route which Percy Fawcett and his entourage took in order to learn more about the man and his disappearance. He and his guide met with an indiginous Indian tribe, the Kalapalos, who knew about Percy's expedition. There is a very satisfying conclusion to the book which realistically explains and solves the mysterious disappearance of Percy Harrison Fawcett and his exploration group. This is a most highly recommended book.

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Lost City of Z Book Info and Reviews

The Lost City of Z: A legendary British explorer’s deadly quest to uncover the secrets of the Amazon

Author: David Grann. Publisher: Simon and Schuster, 2009 Price: £16.99 (hardback) Isbn: 9781847374363

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.

No waterway is mightier than the Amazon, which, at the height of the rainy season, stretches 120 miles from shore to shore. But Percy Fawcett possessed a romantic streak broader even than the river with which his name is still associated. By the time he disappeared, in 1925, Fawcett was probably the best-known explorer on the planet – no mean feat for a man associated with rainforests rather than the modish polar wastes. And his name has been kept alive by authors such as David Grann, whose new book – a surprise bestseller in America – tackles not only the British artill­ery colonel’s final journey, but also his obsession with finding traces of civilisation deep in the Brazilian interior: a settlement Fawcett named, for obscure reasons, the Lost City of Z.
Born in genteel Torquay in 1867, Fawcett was bitten by the explor­ation bug at the age of 21. While he was serving with the army in Sri Lanka, a superior handed him a cryptic note describing a hidden cave stuffed with precious stones. Reading between the lines, it seems the CO hoped only to rid himself of an annoying junior by packing him off on a wild goose chase. Thirty-seven years later, though, Fawcett was still hacking his way through jungles, having discovered, in the interim, not just a passion for exploration, but a clear-eyed understanding that, for a man of slender private means, sponsored expeditions to uncharted corners were one way to scrape a living.
Seen from the perspective of a man for whom fame was never an end in itself, Fawcett’s career begins to make more sense. He was one of the first explorers to appeal for funds by dangling the prospect of exotic discoveries before the eyes of investors, and in the course of an unorthodox career – one highlight of which was Fawcett’s deployment of a ouija board to locate German positions on the Western Front – he spun several necessary yarns. Fawcett claimed to have discovered a breed of two-nosed dog high in the Andes, and spoke of shooting an anaconda 65 feet long in Amazonia. These encounters may actually have occurred, but, equally, they may have been the inventions of a man who was by 1923 so destitute that he was living in a house without electricity or running water, and could not even afford to pay £3 for membership of the Royal Geographical Society.

The story of Z, though, always was of a different order. Tales of lost cities in the rainforest had circulated for centuries; the Spaniards, in 1541, sent a fully-equipped expedition of 200 men in search of El Dorado, and readings of Fawcett’s journals suggest he genuinely believed that such a place existed. What is not nearly so clear is where he thought it was and what he expected to find when he got there; worried that he might yield the honour of discovery to his competitors, Fawcett took pains to leak plenty of misinformation, and Grann is not alone in pointing out that most of the 50 or so explorers who lost their lives searching for him probably did so entirely in vain, having set off for points hundreds of miles from the Englishman’s true destination.

Z itself is an even greater mystery. Fawcett began his quest quite scientifically, writing that “I do not expect that ‘The City’ is either large or rich.” By 1925, however, he was searching for something altogether more dramatic: proof of the existence of an advanced civilisation.

More than that, though, Z was also a mystic place. Grann skims very rapidly indeed over this aspect of Fawcett’s beliefs, which fit poorly with the picture he attempts to draw of a man of ability and common sense. However, according to the Observer journalist Misha Williams – who has scoured precisely the same private papers that Grann makes much of, and whose conclusions the author strangely makes no mention of – “Fawcett had no intention of ever returning to Britain and, perhaps lured by a native she-god or spirit guide whose beautiful image haunts the family archive, he planned instead to set up a commune in the jungle, based on a bizarre cult.” He hoped, Will­iams contends, “to follow what he privately described to friends and family as ‘the Grand Scheme’.” This would involve setting up a secret community which would involve both the worship of his own son, Jack, and the tenets of the then-fashionable credo of theosophy.

Whether this Grand Scheme of Fawcett’s was a sincerely-held belief or simply the ravings of a man gone mad is hard to say; what is perfectly clear, however, is that his final expedition was doomed from the start. The story has been told many times, and even Grann, talented researcher though he is, can add only a little to our know­ledge of it. Setting off with only two companions – Jack and Jack’s friend Raleigh Rimell, neither of whom had any experience of the Amazon – Fawcett was last seen at a spot known as Dead Horse Camp, heading for an unexplored portion of the jungle. There need not be too great a mystery as to his fate; according to the local Indians, they warned the three Englishmen that they were headed into territory inhabited by hostile tribes, and that to press on was tantamount to suicide.

That Fawcett – too old, at 57, to take such risks – might have died in the course of an over-ambitious, under-funded final expedition is not much of a story, though, and the real problem with Grann’s undeniably entertaining book is that he cannot afford to admit this. The Lost City of Z not only glosses over Fawcett’s mysticism, but erects its own elaborate facades. There is much talk, early in the book, of Grann’s search for an ancient map that might show Z, but considerably less mention of the fact that it points to a spot about 1,000 miles from the place Fawcett was looking for. Similarly, Grann’s efforts to create a parallel narrative of his own expedition in search of Fawcett founded on the awful but revealing fact that Dead Horse Camp – reachable in 1925 only after weeks with a machete in the trackless jungle – is now less than a day’s journey from the nearest settlement, and reachable by 4WD across a deforested terrain that “looks like Nebraska – perpetual plains fading into the horizon.”

The Lost City of Z
is well supported with notes and a full bibliography, but the lack of maps is sorely felt. Read original article

Interesting snippet: The real-life Percy Fawcett is said to have been one of the inspirations for the Indiana Jones character.

An episode was written for the planned third season of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles that would have featured Indy and René Belloq becoming involved in Fawcett's quest for the Lost City of Z, but with the cancellation of the series, the episode was never filmed.

Colonel Percy Fawcett and his obsession with finding a lost city in the heart of the Brazilian jungle

by Mike Dash

February 2010

Sightings of Fawcett in the Jungle Colonel Percy Fawcett Background Information Fawcett Home Fawcett Books