I’ve been having a lot of fun working on my new book – Book Lust to Go (due out sometime in 2010). It’ll be filled with armchair travel and adventure books, novels set in foreign countries, all the history they’ll let me shoehorn in — that sort of book. I’m sure you get the picture. The reading has been heavenly. One thing I’ve been struck by is how many of the armchair adventure sort feature people who have chosen to go on these risky journeys — Jon Krakauer’s marvelous Into Thin Air comes immediately to mind, of course, as do Bill Bryson, who chose to walk the Appalachian Trail, and Tony Horwitz who set off for Baghdad without a map. But the men described in Dean King’s Skeletons on the Zahara: A True Story of Survival (Little, Brown, 2005) ended up where they did purely by chance. In August of 1815, twelve crewmembers (including three officers) from the Connecticut merchant brig Commerce were shipwrecked off the western coast of Africa, enslaved by a Bedouin tribe, and forced to accompany their captors — by foot and by camelback — on a seemingly endless, desperately grueling, and bone-dry trek through the sands of the western Sahara desert (now part of Morocco). Which of the crew, if any, will survive the unspeakable horrors, misery, and deprivation they face? And if they do survive, how will they ever make it back across the Atlantic to home and family? King based his book on two first-person accounts of the hellish experience the men underwent: The first was called, quite simply, Sufferings in Africa. It was written by James Riley, the captain of the Commerce, and was originally published in 1817. The second, written by Archibald Robbins, an “able seaman” aboard the Commerce, appeared in 1818. From these two works, King has constructed a gripping, page-turning narrative — a tale of survival and courage in the most dire of circumstances. The fact that as this story was unfolding alongside a parallel story of survival and courage in the face of dire circumstances — the abduction and enslavement in the “New World” of African native men, women, and children — makes King’s book especially ironic.