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Fergus Fleming is one of Britain's leading popular historians of exploration and the bestselling author of Barrow's Boys, Killing Dragons, Ninety Degrees North, The Sword and the Cross, Cassell's Tales of Endurance and The Explorer's Eye. He lives with his family in the Cotswolds.
On 16 August 1952, Ian Fleming wrote to his wife, Ann, 'My love, This is only a tiny letter to try out my new typewriter and to see if it will write golden words since it is made of gold'. He had bought the gold-plated typewriter as a present to himself for finishing his first novel, Casino Royale. It marked in glamorous style the arrival of James Bond, agent 007, and the start of a career that saw Fleming become one of the world's most celebrated thriller-writers. And he did write golden words. Before his death in 1964 he produced fourteen bestselling Bond books, two works of non-fiction and the famous children's story Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang.
The Traveller's Daybook invites you to cross ocean, desert, mountain and ice-cap in the company of the world's greatest explorers, wanderers and writers - Fergus Fleming's day-by-day anthology of travel writing ranges widely across time as well as place: from Christopher Columbus's 'discovery' of the West Indies in 1492 via the trans-American expedition of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark in 1804-06, and on to Wilfred Thesiger's wanderings in Arabia's 'empty quarter' in the 1940s. Each quoted extract is accompanied by a brief commentary that introduces the writer and brings the context to life. Fleming's itinerary offers both a wealth of exotic and extraordinary destinations, and a many-hued patchwork of moods and surprising serendipities: the delight of the seventeenth-century diarist John Evelyn at the spring mildness of Naples in February; the stoic courage of Captain Scott facing death at forty degrees below zero; and the exasperation of the poet Dylan Thomas at finding himself in a 'stifflipped, liverish, British Guest House in puking Abadan'.
On 16 August 1952, Ian Fleming wrote to his wife, Ann, 'My love, This is only a tiny letter to try out my new typewriter and to see if it will write golden words since it is made of gold'. He had bought the gold-plated typewriter as a present to himself for finishing his first novel, Casino Royale. It marked in glamorous style the arrival of James Bond, agent 007, and the start of a career that saw Fleming become one of the world's most celebrated thriller writers. And he did write golden words. Before his death in 1964 he produced fourteen bestselling Bond books, two works of non-fiction and the famous children's story Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang. Fleming's output was matched by an equally energetic flow of letters. He wrote constantly, to his wife, publisher, editors, fans, friends and critics, charting 007's progress with correspondence that ranged from badgering Jonathan Cape about his quota of free copies - a coin was tossed; Fleming lost - to apologising for having mistaken a certain brand of perfume and for equipping Bond with the wrong kind of gun. His letters also reflect his friendships with contemporaries such as Raymond Chandler, Noel Coward and Somerset Maugham. Before the world-famous films came the world-famous novels. This books tells the story of the man who wrote them and how he created spy fiction's most compelling hero.
The Sahara was the missing link in France's African Empire. The Sword and the Cross is the story of two fanatical adventurers who helped complete their country's imperial conquest. Viscomte Charles de Foucauld was a sensualist who lounged in bed eating foie gras with a silver spoon. Henri Laperrine was a stern perfectionist who lived only for soldiering. Each of them found his vocation in the desert: Foucauld found religion and an asceticism so great that even Trappism seemed too comfortable; Laperrine formed a legendary camel corps to pursue the Tuareg nomads across the desert. By 1910, the Sahara had been won - but as Europe lurched towards war in the years after, both men were to pay a terrible price. Weaving together hatred and friendship, self-sacrifice and utter self-delusion, The Sword and the Cross is a brilliant story of a forgotten episode in Europe's colonial history.
In the mid-nineteenth century the North Pole was a mystery. Some believed that it was an island of basalt in a warm crystal sea. Explorers who tried to penetrate the icy wastes failed or died. But after Sir John Franklin disappeared with all his men in 1845, serious efforts began to be made to find the true northernmost point of the globe. Fergus Fleming's book is a vivid, witty history of the disasters that ensued. The new explorers included Elisha Kane, a sickly man and useless commander, who led his team close to death in 1854, and Charles Hall, a printer from Ohio. Hall made the mistake of taking an experienced crew, who refused to commit suicide for him. Their mutiny so enraged Hall that he died of a stroke, and some of his crew escaped south on an ice floe. They were followed by the Germans, newly united and eager for their place in the ice, the Austro-Hungarians and the British, who in 1876 managed to get further than any other expedition, travelling over terrain later explorers considered impassable. They left the field to the Norwegians, to expeditions organized by the American tabloid press, Swedish baloonists, aristocratic Italians and finally to the obsessive Robert Peary, who on one trip took his pregnant wife with him in order to set a record for the most northerly birth in history. He finally made it in 1909.
Full of eccentric characters, Killing Dragons is the story of the first British mountaineers to tackle the Alpine summits of Switzerland during the late eighteenth century. Originally the explorers of this area were poorly equipped, wearing ordinary shoes and no protective clothing. The British arrived intent on reaching every Alpine summit, and 'mountaineering' was born. The title refers to the mythical creatures said to inhabit these peaks: 'Here be dragons,' said the old maps ...
The atlas of 1816 was littered with blanks. What was the North Pole? Was there a Northwest Passage? What lay at the heart of Africa? Did Antarctica exist? In his quest to find the answers to these questions, John Barrow, Second Secretary to the Admiralty, launched the most ambitious programme of exploration the world had ever seen. Between 1816 and 1845 his hand-picked teams of elite naval officers scoured the globe's empty spaces. Often at odds with each other and working in utterly surreal conditions - cocked hats in the Arctic, frock coats in the Sahara - they entered the void. Their ignorance of the conditions they would encounter, allied to Barrow's insouciant way with maps, make this a tale of absurdly dangerous comedy as well as harrowing personal endeavour.