Tim Severin has long been one of the most extraordinary travel writers in the English language. His skills as an explorer and world traveller have given birth to some remarkable books, and his highly individual odysseys are quite unlike those of any other writer (while still a student at Oxford, he made his first expedition by motorcycle tracing the route taken by Marco Polo). His books (such as the recent In Search of Moby Dick) have won him a whole slew of awards (notably the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award), and it wouldn't be too much of a surprise if this fascinating new volume gleans the same kind of success.
Seeking Robinson Crusoe is a compelling voyage of discovery, synthesising history and myth to create a picture of the man whose very name is synonymous with the desert-island castaway. In attempting to find out who was the real Robinson Crusoe, Severin takes us to many strange places, from islands where sailors were shipwrecked or cast adrift in the days of the buccaneers to the coast of Chile. It is here that Severin begins his journey, on the island of Juan Fernandez. From here the Scottish sailor Alexander Selkirk (who many consider to be the prototype for Daniel Defoe's immortal hero) set sail. And Severin is interested, too, in the descendants of Crusoe's Man Friday: we are shown the lives of Miskito Indians carving out a difficult existence in the Nicaraguan swamps.
Of course, Daniel Defoe is a significant character in Severin's investigation, and he tracks down (as did his predecessor Defoe) the English buccaneer surgeon, Lionel Wafer, who had a bloody run-in with pirates and is also a significant element in the fabric of this highly unusual (and highly memorable) book. The characters you'll encounter on this journey are quite as exotic as the many locales, and all are filtered through Severin's distinctive authorial voice. --Barry Forshaw