From Publishers Weekly
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)
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Like the more famous wildlife adventurer Steve Irwin, biologist Joe Slowinski, an expert in snakes, died as a result of his professional passion. On a 2001 expedition into the Burmese jungle to locate rare snakes, Slowinski was bitten by a many-banded krait, a reptile with a paralyzing neurotoxin venom that spells near-certain death for the victim. This book, which falls firmly into the same true-life tragedy genre as Into the Wild or Into Thin Air (also about people who died doing the thing they loved), tells us about Slowinski’s life and career and the frantic efforts, after he was bitten, to keep him breathing until he could be rescued. At the end, we feel as though we knew Slowinski, that we understand what made him tick. It’s 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. --David Pitt