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A Guest in the Jungle [Kindle Edition]

James Polster
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)

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Book Description

When Pittsburgh attorney Whitehill begins his vacation, he is anticipating a leisurely jaunt across South America. But he gets more than he bargained for when a sightseeing trip goes awry, leaving him stranded in the heart of the Amazon jungle. Whitehill isn’t exactly the outdoorsy type—he hikes in Brooks Brothers pants—so he is relieved when he meets a scientist perusing the jungle for medicinal plants and insects. Of course, the good doctor’s true motives are less than altruistic, and Whitehill soon finds himself being forcibly marched through the rainforest en route to certain death. When he escapes, with the help of some hungry vampire bats, Whitehill falls in with an English-speaking Indian whose tribe is at the heart of a raging land conflict. Trapped in the jungle, Whitehill must gather what little courage he has to stop an Indian war and preserve a vanishing culture from rapacious developers. Along the way, he has a fling with a gorgeous native, narrowly survives being sacrificed to the gods, and is rescued from a bombing by a pair of hard-drinking American expats. A Guest in the Jungle is a smart, engrossing, and uproariously funny novel about the power of one man to make a difference in the world.

Editorial Reviews Review

The Inspiration Behind A Guest in the Jungle: James Polster in the Jungle of New Guinea

Click on thumbnails for larger images

In the Oriente Jungle, Ecuador--from "You'll Never Get Out Alive--But He Did" (New Orleans Times-Picayune)
Polster's home with the Motilone Indians--inspiration for the Lotimone tribe in A Guest in the Jungle
Polster navigating through the flora of the canopy jungle

Question: Can you tell us the story behind the mysterious photograph of the large jungle hut (above, center)?

James Polster: It's the bohio I lived in, and the shot was taken by the anthropologist who made first contact with the Motilone tribe that became the inspiration for the Lotimone tribe in the novel. And that bohio is the model for the one Whitehill stayed in during A Guest in the Jungle.

The anthropologist was killed shortly after he took that picture--by a coral snake. That's not easy--a coral snake is not aggressive, has short fangs, and needs to get a good bite. It's a rare death. An anti-venom exists--But not deep in the jungle. Because of this, I used to carry an anti-venom kit, but mine was for pit vipers, not for coral snakes. That anti-venom, I think, has to be refrigerated. So I just got the best anti-snake-bite thing I could find.

The one I had was a thick cardboard box about the size of six cigarette packs. It had a vial of anti-venom, an evil looking syringe, and something to use to tie off--a red rubber rope--if the bite was in a convenient spot where one could even do that. It also had a smaller vial of some test serum, and a smaller needle, which you were supposed to use first to see if the bite was allergic to the anti-venom. Of course, this would be difficult if one was alone and bit by a bushmaster--which almost happened to me (I got the kit shortly thereafter), and to the hero of A Guest in the Jungle as well.

A pit viper, like a bushmaster, can strike about two thirds of their body length, so a good-sized one can get you in the neck. There is immediate pain and swelling, and you start to bleed from every pore in your body. I never had to find out, but I'm pretty sure I would have skipped the step to test if I was allergic to the anti-venom. My mom found this kit while digging through some old gear I left in a closet at my parents' house, can imagine. Fortunately, I was a couple of countries away at the time.

My other snake bite kit was a felt tip pen, a piece of paper, and a plastic bag. The plan was, in an emergency, I would write a note, give it to whatever Indian seemed the fastest, and say "Bogata!" I know, not a great plan, none of them had any idea what Bogata was- but I actually did carry this for that purpose.

The anthropologist was a marathon runner, and when he realized what had happened, his instincts kicked in. Instead of staying in the cool river where he'd slipped and fallen on the snake, he ran and pumped the venom through his system. I never met him. The picture was shot 2 months before I was taken in to the tribe by the guy who was walking next to the anthropologist when he was bitten.


"An action packed comedy with blazing insights into life strewn along the trail." --Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Daring, witty, and intelligently written. With this novel, James Polster moves to the cutting edge of a new crop of young, talented West Coast writers." --San Francisco Review of Books

"A thriller that is both frightening and funny- Polster's impressive ability to evoke the jungle in all its perilous beauty gives the reader a real sense of being there." --Los Angeles Daily News

"The diversity of life, both wild and human, is incredible, but a very hard reality comes through- the big reality, the big question." --NPR

"I stayed up late and got up early and still had to be a couple of hours late to work in order to finish- outperforms the highest expectations- a Must Read Book." --New Orleans Magazine 

"Polster fits somewhere between Hiassen and Vonnegut.”--Publishers Weekly
"Hilarious and unpredictable. Best of all- a clear message about the evils of tropical rainforest destruction- a wonderful book and highly recommended." --World Rainforest Report

"A real life Indiana Jones." -- WWL TV, New Orleans

“Polster's book is so engrossing, unpretentious- and uproariously funny- that the reader may not recognize at first how poetically written and beautifully crafted it is…You can't put this book down. If you try, it will follow you through every room in the house." -- Bob Scher, The South American Explorer

"Consistently smart...convincingly exotic."-- The New York Times

"Polster practices the humorist's craft with a bold, sure hand that recalls Mark Twain." -- Kirkus Reviews

"James Polster's novel is a high speed jungle chase, a slambanger with never a dull sentence. The book provides more honest pleasure than a day at the movies- and I'm including buttered popcorn and a large soda in that claim. Whitehill is an irresistible hero: modest and joking even while he's escaping from the seamiest, oiliest, baddest of bad guys. The pages fly, the world goes away. There is some magic in this writing." James Robison - Author of Rumor

Product Details

  • File Size: 395 KB
  • Print Length: 251 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1935597515
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (April 19, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0047O2S6Y
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,456 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I Kept Imagining This As A Movie! May 18, 2011
By Mary
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Wacky & off-beat does not begin to describe this book! Also, as I read along, I kept thinking that I could easily imagine this as a movie ~ and perhaps that is also what the author was thinking as he wrote it because it just so happens that he works in the movie business! I did enjoy the book & found it very funny in places. Don't read this book expecting great writing (the writing is adequate, but won't win raves), but read it for the very inventive story of a buttoned-up white lawyer seeking a tame adventure in the Amazon jungle, but becomes lost, kidnapped by bad guys, rescued by an indigenous tribe, and has lots of exotic adventures.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars TOPICAL AND HYSTERICAL May 12, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
James Polster has one of the most unique comic visions of anyone writing today. Once you recover from laughing your guts out, this book will make you want to get up off the couch and either go save the Rainforet or go buy that other Polster surrealist gem, "Brown." "Guest in the Jungle" fictionalizes the author's own jaw-dropping adventures in the Amazon; you'll have to read them to believe them, and you should do it as soon as you can. Polster blends Joseph Heller, Joseph Conrad and Mark Twain into a unique jungle stew that will have you in stitches - and Polster himself would have been in stitches if that bushmaster had succeeded in sticking his fangs in him. Luckily he escaped, to entertain and enchant us all.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun and intrigue in the Amazon May 12, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Whitehill is a thirty-something American lawyer who quits his job in search of adventure. Unprepared and reckless, we first meet him lost in the jungle outside a remote Amazonian town. Nobody knows his whereabouts and tragedy seems certain; that's when the fun starts. Whitehill meets the mysterious Dr. Darreiro and his scary Indian sidekick; they're obviously up to no good and it's non-stop jungle intrigue until we find out why.

As the hapless lawyer goes ever deeper into unexplored territory the inhabitants get stranger. When Whitehill shares magic-mushroom soup with a friendly tribe, things take a surreal turn. These Indians are not your everyday native stereotypes.

Who knows what is lurking deep in the green wilderness; one thing's for sure, the beauty of the Amazon rainforest shines center stage throughout the story.

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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not at all funny, and not interesting May 12, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
In A Guest in the Jungle, author James Polster introduces readers to Whitehill, a 31 year old lawyer from Pittsburg. He takes a sabbatical on a whim to travel the world without an itinerary. Forgetting his fear of snakes, he goes hiking in the Amazon jungle without a guide. Whitehall is then trust through a series of adventures involving kidnapping and isolated tribes.

Polster's writing is generally lush and descriptive, but sometimes these descriptions come off amateur-ish, such as "He closed his eyes and sighed like a man at his desk who realizes that the workload for the day is far more than he anticipated." Also, Amazon has this book categorized as "comic fiction," however, I did not find any part of this book to be funny, rather it was just exaggerated to the point of ridiculousness. In fact, one "funny" scene involved oral sex during a business meeting - it was not funny, but gratuitous and awkward.

In trying to beef up the story by making Whitehill and his adventures seem more important, Polster added small elements of mystery through a few sections that center around other characters. One of these is Travers, a no nonsense business man who fears change and is trying to work in Bogata. These segments are few and far between and seemingly unconnected (in fact, on character has literally no purpose by the time you reach the end of the novel), and only make the novel disjointed.

Some of the views of Western life are insightful, but overall it reads like Polster wanted to convince readers to save the rain forest and indigenous tribes by writing a "funny" story. While an admirable goal, it becomes preachy and boring. This, compacted with an abrupt and unsatisfying ending, makes it impossible for me to recommend this book to anyone.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By cpcooks
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is story telling at it's best, a page turner. It's all the more incredible because it's based on the author's real life adventures! I can't believe someone would choose to go into a jungle full of huge snakes but this guy did. The descriptions are also lush. I couldn't wait to get into bed at night and start reading again. Loved it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Bad writing September 16, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I only gave this book 1 star because I finished it, though to this day, I am not sure why I finished it (I must have been really bored). I am not sure what was worse in this book; the horrible story line (really unbelievable at the best of times), the predictability (I knew how it would end after about 10 pages), the awful character development, or just the awful writing. In any case - don't waste your time reading or money purchasing this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Entertaining Read with A Message January 28, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I appreciate the author`s ability to drive home the environmental disaster looming over the Amazon Basin and its inhabitants while keeping a sense of humor. The story is a good, entertaining read even though it sometimes felt rushed and the humor a bit strained.
I would still recommend it with those reservations as the characters are fun and the story keeps moving. Whitehill`s encounters with the various communities of Amazonian inhabitants are quite entertaining.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A guest in the jungle
I really liked this story until the last chapter.I didn't expect Whitehill to be portrayed as living the remainder of his life so shallowly. Read more
Published 18 days ago by Anita Sweatt
3.0 out of 5 stars A Slow Ride
The setting is quite colorful, as are the characters. Much of the story is a bit slow. A Guest in the Jungle makes for a nice read, but I was expecting more of an adventure.
Published 23 days ago by dramadoctor
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting premise and a couple of good characters, good jungle...
Thin at the end. Interesting premise and a couple of good characters, good jungle descriptions I guess (I have never been in the jungle so cannot speak with authority) but the... Read more
Published 3 months ago by BGZap
4.0 out of 5 stars Amazon Misadventures
Generally liked the book, but found it difficult to follow some of the characters and the storyline. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Teresa M. Campbell
3.0 out of 5 stars Bedtime book
Very slow read. Read over half the book before a semblance of a storyline appeared. Kept reading just to find what it was about.
Published 4 months ago by L. A.
4.0 out of 5 stars Get it
Good adventure; well written and interesting
Published 4 months ago by ma
4.0 out of 5 stars A guest in the jungle, by James Polster
This was a surprise. I went into this expecting a Nature/Humor read. This was humorous, no mistake. The Dark Reality of this book doesn't hit you until the end. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Robin Behrent
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Fun summer read, but it also gives you things to think about
Published 6 months ago by Sharon Hagen
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great book - very entertaining!!!
Published 6 months ago by mfb
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Interesting plot line.
Published 6 months ago by carol kalb
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More About the Author

James Polster has produced movies for Columbia Pictures and NBC, received numerous awards both as novelist and journalist, graduate degrees from Harvard and Columbia, and is a National Fellow of the Explorers Club.

Polster's exploits have been profiled often on radio, tv, and in print, and his first book, the award winning, A GUEST IN THE JUNGLE, helped focus a spotlight on the disappearing Amazon rainforest and the people who live there.

His second book, BROWN, a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, was singled out as one of Library Journal's "Books of Choice", and won the Critics' Choice Award (Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, L.A. Times, etc.)

As a journalist, he has covered Indira Gandhi in New Delhi, the Duran/Leonard Superfight in New Orleans, Donald Trump in New York, cannibals in New Guinea, and both covered and played in the World Championships of Elephant Polo for Sports Illustrated in Nepal.

A GUEST IN THE JUNGLE, BROWN, and his new novel, THE GRADUATE STUDENT are available from AmazonEncore.

The New York Times calls Polster's writing "Outlandish adventure", the San Francisco Review of Books placed him on the cutting edge of talented, West Coast writers, Publishers Weekly calls his work "Bold, hilarious, essentially unclassifiable", and reviewers compare him to Vonnegut, Twain, Hiaasen, Waugh, and Hunter Thompson.

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