Paradise of the Damned

Paradise of the Damned by Keith Thomson

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for Paradise of the Damned:

Europeans loved falling for the old “city of gold” trick.

Quick synopsis:

The story of Sir Walter Raleigh’s obsession with El Dorado.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like:

Columbus’s first voyage covered 3,700 miles in 36 days of sailing.

Fun Fact for History Nerds:

The Orinoco River in South America covers an area of 366,000 square miles or twice the size of Spain.

My Take on Paradise of the Damned:

“Chase your dreams,” people say. A less popular maxim is, “You really need to know when to quit it.” The “it” in this instance is the mythical El Dorado. The people who didn’t know when to quit were mostly Walter Raleigh (or Ralegh or…well even he didn’t know how to spell his own name right) and a bunch of other people. We can add another saying which should be more well known. “The Amazon is trying to kill you and it’s very good at it.”

Paradise of the Damned by Keith Thomson is a wonderful character study of people who think they are just one more mile from that last big score. The score they can retire on. The score which will make them immortal. In the case of Raleigh, he would become immortal, just not in the way he intended.

Most of the narrative is focused on Raleigh and his life once he made his multiple bids for El Dorado. This is not a full biography of Raleigh, but it is a very enjoyable recounting of parts of his life. Along the way, Thomson also mentions the multitude of men who thought they could tame the Amazon and it never goes well.

I should mention that Thomson has a hysterical way of infusing this dark story with witty asides which are always welcome. After all, there is an inherent hilarity in how many of these men kept falling for stories from indigenous people. “Gold? Sure, it’s somewhere that is not here. Just keep going and leave us alone. Yeah, my cousin told me all the gold is that way. Yes, we are totally best friends. Now go.”

It’s not a lie if you want to believe it.

(This book was provided as an advance copy by Netgalley and Little, Brown and Company.)


A great adventure book. Buy it here!

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