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Headhunters on My Doorstep: A True Treasure Island Ghost Story Hardcover – August 20, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham (August 20, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592407897
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592407897
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #138,440 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Newly sober travel writer Troost retraces Robert Louis Stevenson's route through the South Pacific from the Marquesas to Samoa in this evocative, funny literary memoir. He recounts his voyage upon the Aranui III cargo ship rooming with a seasick "family of cheerful gnomes from Lyon," battling the urge for a drink and acquiring a traditional Marquesan tattoo on the anniversary of his sobriety. Troost provides insight into addiction and recovery that, in his case, turned him from alcoholic to longdistance runner, and from Buddhism to the Catholic Church. We learn the history of the islands and view the beautiful landscapes of lagoons, atolls, and beaches through Troost's vibrant descriptions. Troost muses on quotes from Stevenson's In the South Seas, such as his thoughts on cannibalism, "to eat a man's flesh after he is dead is far less hateful than to oppress him whilst he lives." He also discusses other literary works about the South Pacific including Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl's Back to Nature and Herman Melville's Typee. Troost is an excellent travel narrator, clever, bold, and full of captivating visual details. His personal story of recovery is also powerfully told and will surely resonate with many readers.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* It might seem odd that Troost, the Dutch American travel writer, had never read Robert Louis Stevenson’s In the South Seas, the chronicle of Stevenson’s South Pacific voyage to the Marquesas, Tahiti, and Samoa. But, hey, to Troost’s nimble, rather offbeat mind, RLS was “boring. He was stuffy. He was probably English.” Troost adds, “So I was an idiot.” This travel memoir charts the author’s own South Pacific voyage, replicating (to a degree) Stevenson’s. The trip was partly therapeutic—Troost, a recovering alcoholic, has a big problem with continents (“Bad things happened to me on large land masses. Terrible things”)—and going somewhere small and isolated seemed just the thing to ease a troubled spirit. But there was also an educational component. Troost was trying to experience the voyage in two ways: as a modern-day adventure, but also as a way to explore an episode of Stevenson’s life, to get to know this man and writer he’d neglected for far too long. Like Bill Bryson, Troost deftly combines humor, commentary, and education (an aside about the Marquesas episode of Survivor, sparked by the author’s discovery that he’s standing on a beach that featured in the show, leads smoothly into a look at “old Marquesas” and its odd mixture of wealth and poverty). Troost is a very funny guy, but he also has a lot of serious things to talk about. A splendid travel memoir. --David Pitt

More About the Author

J. MAARTEN TROOST is an international traveler whose essays have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The Washington Post, and The Prague Post. He spent two years in Kiribati in the Equatorial Pacific and upon his return was hired as a consultant by the World Bank. After several years in Fiji and Vanuatu, he recently relocated to the U.S. and now lives with his wife and son in California.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Ripley Sloane on August 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A few months ago, my last child starting sleeping through the night, and I decided it was time to get back to reading books without pictures. Having read all his other books, I wanted to see if J. Maarten Troost had written anything lately. As luck would have it, a new book was imminent, so I pre-ordered it and read Cheryl Strayed's "Wild" while I waited. I'm actually glad I read that one first, because it failed to impress me, and it made Headhunters even more enjoyable.

When asked what kind of books I prefer, I always saw the same thing. Travelogues and books about sharks and natural disasters. Headhunters on My Doorstep has a little of all of that. Troost's writing has matured over the years and his books have become a little less rollicky (It's a word. I looked it up.) and a bit more informative. That's fine by me, as I've grown up a bit, too. It didn't surprise me in the least to see that he had become-- or perhaps it would be more accurate to say he recognized-- that he was an alcoholic, because the earlier books paint a picture of someone very willing to get loaded, so much so that I used to think, "Why can't I do that?" But, of course, as you can read in Headhunters, very few people can do that forever. And so, at the start of the book, the situation is explained. We know where Troost has been and are brought along with him as we find out where he's going.

I knew nothing about Robert Louis Stevenson and found his story fascinating, as did Troost. Seeing as I'm probably never going to follow Stevenson's path around the South Pacific (I hate humidity), I'm glad Troost did it for me.
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40 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Douglas J. La Rose on August 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I love J. Marteen Troost's writing. His progression of books seemed to be moving on an upward trajectory with "Lost on Planet China," where he was breaking out of the South Pacific and getting into more wall-crashing travel writing. A taste for the bizarre, a sharp sense of humor, a thirst for knowledge: these were all characteristics of his former books. I couldn't get enough.

But along comes "Headhunters on my Doorstep" and I am dumbfounded by the banality and preachiness of it. It's like taking his two former South Pacific adventures, removing all of the fascination and enjoyment, and replacing it with a personal guilt trip that is probably none of the reader's business. While reading the book I couldn't help but grimace at the possibility that I had forked over $12 for a really unhelpful self-help book.

I think it is great that the author was able to recover from his addiction to alcohol. I admire his replacement of drinking with jogging. But is there anything unusual or fascinating about it? Not really. Robert Louis Stevenson traveled to the South Pacific to deal with his health problems, and so does J. Marteen Troost. Is that a good premise for a book? Not really.

What is so frustrating about this book is that at points it seems to be getting better. But then, for an unreasonable amount of time, Troost goes into another diatribe about how awful alcohol is or how wonderful running is. He throws in a sprinkle of humor here and there to justify finishing the narrative. But in the end, I was left wanting and a bit upset at the spectacle of it all. There should be a caveat on the cover of this book that it might be good for recovering alcoholics, but not so good for people looking to learn something new or read a description of what undoubtedly must be a fascinating place.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By SnouterShooter on October 5, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I loved J. Maarten Troost's earlier travel books but this one's very disappointing despite the exotic tropical setting. This book goes on and on and on and on about what it's like to be an obnoxious drunk, what it takes to quit drinking, what it's like to be sober when you really want a drink, how similar drinking is to running, etc. I barely made it through to the end. If you're thinking of buying it, download a sample first instead of assuming that it will be as interesting as his other books.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jerry Dwyer on September 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
J. Marteen Troost's humorous writing ranks up there with P.J. O'Rourke's. He is funny, often making wry observations when they are least expected. His material is different - traveling and observing the South Seas - but the humor is quite similar: intentionally offbeat and thoughtful.

This book is very good indeed. I have read this book through twice in a row. While it is hard to think of any other book that interesting, I enjoyed this book that much. Why?

Troost follows the adventures of Robert Louis Stevenson through the Pacific, sometimes almost literally following in his footsteps. He observes and comments on odd events, people and things. Two of the most memorable people are a German former French Legionnaire who runs a café with his Marquesan wife and is covered with Marquesan tattoos. Another is Celine, a "man-killer" who took him on a serious horse ride up the mountains.

He has a sense of humor about it all. In Kiribati, he is unable to speak with government officials who are not impressed by the title of his previous book mostly about their country "Sex Lives of Cannibals." On Samoa, he speaks with a former deputy prime minister of Samoa because "[w]e had a mutual friend, and what I liked about the Pacific is that this alone is enough to elicit an invitation for coffee from a highfalutin official. Imagine if you knew someone who went to high school with Joe Biden, and then visiting Washington, DC, you get a call from the vice president inviting you for a ride in his Camaro."

While this is a funny book, it is a funny and enjoyable travel book. Much of the book is about French Polynesia, which many including me have dreamed of visiting.
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