Synopses & Reviews
Although it was still too dark to see well, Joe absentmindedly thrust his right hand into the sack to extract the specimen and have a look. Immediately, he winced with pain and yanked out his hand. A tiny black-and-white banded snake, less than ten inches long, was dangling limply from his middle finger, its fangs still sunk into his flesh.
In the fall of 2001, deep in the jungle of Burma, a team of scientists is searching for rare snakes. They are led by Dr. Joe Slowinski, at forty already one of the most brilliant biologists of our time. It is the most ambitious scientific expedition ever mounted into this remote region, venturing into the foothills of the Himalayas. The bold undertaking is brought to a dramatic halt by the bite of the many-banded krait, the deadliest serpent in Asia. In the moment he pulled his hand from the specimen bag and saw the krait, Joe knew that his life was in grave and imminent peril. Thus began one of the most remarkable wilderness rescue attempts of modern times, as Joe's teammates kept him alive for thirty hours by mouth-to-mouth respiration, waiting for a rescue that never came.
A daredevil obsessed with venomous snakes since his youth, Slowinski was a modern-day adventurer who rose quickly to the top of his field, discovering many previously unidentified snake species in his brief yet exhilarating career. The Snake Charmer is at once brilliant biography and exotic travel literature, blended with an accessible introduction to the bizarre, fascinating-and sometimes controversial-world of snake science. The narrative transports the reader into primeval wilderness, from the Everglades to Peru to Burma, in search of rattlesnakes and boa constrictors, kraits and cobras.
Joe Slowinski's career was fast and exciting, his tragic final expedition a pulse-pounding struggle between man and nature. In The Snake Charmer, renowned journalist and author Jamie James captures the life and death of this charismatic, endlessly fascinating man. Exhaustively researched in interviews with Slowinski's colleagues and family, and the author's own trek into the wilds of Burma, this is narrative nonfiction in the tradition of Into the Wild and The Perfect Storm.
"James (The Music of the Spheres) tells the gritty and sad story of Joe Slowinski, a flamboyant and well-known herpetologist who died in Burma in 2001, aged 38, from the poisonous bite of a krait snake. Different snakes from the first black rat snake he encountered at age five to the cobras on which his professional success was built anchor different phases in Slowinski's life, as James paints a portrait of a man filled with ambition, intelligence, passion and recklessness. The account of the expedition into an unexplored region of northern Burma is chilling it 'set a new standard of misery' for scientific expeditions. After Slowinski was bitten by the krait, he was kept alive for 30 hours, through his companions' heroic efforts, with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. But the snake's potent neurotoxin did its work, and Slowinski died deep in the jungle. In the end, this book is both a tribute to Slowinski's spirit and scientific accomplishments, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of an overly passionate ambition. 8 pages of color and 8 pages of b&w photos. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A dramatic and moving story, told by an author who clearly understands that his subject is not simply about a man's cruel and ironic death but also about his life, his spirit, and his dreams."--Booklist
"Absorbing, stylishly written account of the life and career of a celebrated young herpetologist...an exquisitely crafted book that will grab even those who have no interest in snakes."--Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Absolutely riveting. This sensitive, fascinating exploration of a scientist's quest for knowledge deepens with relentless suspense into a classic tale of a man's fight for survival in the wilderness."--Linda Greenlaw, author of The Hungry Ocean
"This book will astonish and delight anyone who believes that the great age of biological collecting is over."--Anne Fadiman, author of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
On September 11th, 2001 while exploring a Burmese jungle, Dr. Joe Slowinski was bitten by a krait, one of the most poisonous snakes in the world. His colleagues kept him alive for 26 hours with mouth-to-mouth respiration, waiting for medical help that would never come because of the global disruption caused by the attacks in America. This is narrative nonfiction in the great tradition of Into the Wild
and The Perfect Storm
, detailing Slowinski's entire life as an expert on poisonous snakes, structured around the dramatic story of his last expedition in the jungles of Burma. It will include first-person sources including Slowinski's colleagues and members of his family as well as material on snakes, the jungle, science and exploration, and Slowinski's own personality and passions.
The first part of the book is organized by species of snake, and how each snake affected Slowinski's life. The book's second part covers Slowinski's final expedition into the deep jungle, the expedition that cost him his life.
On September 11, 2001, while exploring a Burmese jungle, Dr. Joe Slowinski was bitten by a krait, one of the most poisonous snakes in the world. This narrative nonfiction details Slowinski's entire life as an expert on poisonous snakes and the expedition that cost him his life.
In the fall of 2001, deep in the jungle of Burma, a team of scientists searches for rare snakes.
They are led by Dr. Joe Slowinski, at 38 already one of the most brilliant biologists of our time. It is the most ambitious scientific expedition ever mounted into this remote region, brought to a dramatic halt by the bite of the many-banded krait, the deadliest serpent in Asia. Thus begins one of the most remarkable wilderness rescue attempts of modern times. In The Snake Charmer, renowned journalist and author Jamie James captures the life and death of the fascinating and charismatic Joe Slowinski--a man whose career was fast and exciting, and whose tragic final expedition became a pulse-pounding struggle between man and nature.
About the Author
Jamie James is the author of eight books, including Music of the Spheres, Other Origins, and Eccentrics: A Study in Sanity and Strangeness. He has lived in Indonesia since 1999, where he continues to write for top American newspapers and magazines, including the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, Conde Nast Traveler, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Wall Street Journal.