I originally sold this as an update of the Burton-Speke controversy about the Nile. But my long-ago quest from the Knockdown days to discover why men and women who seemingly have it all risk their lives in the name of adventure found its way into the writing process. The result is perhaps the best book I've written on my own, a blending of history and neuroscience that I found captivating to write. The people at Simon and Schuster were kind enough to go along with my audible about the book's narrative (the book I sold them and the book I delivered were as different as night and day).
I've been a runner since the age of six, a period of time which includes the evolution of the sport from small niche to the vast running booms that have made the sport mainstream. It seemed like the time to do my own personal version of George Sheehan's legendary "Running and Being" — a series of personal essays about my definition of running and life. Running is such an individual experience that every runner has a different take on what it means to pursue this glorious pastime. As with many books, the final version is something far more personal than I had imagined. For some strange reason, this is a divisive book, with some reviewers loving it and others eager to slam it. That's their choice and I feel this has a lot to do with the singular nature of the running experience. One of these days I hope to write a sequel.
Tut represented the first chance to collaborate on the big stage. James Patterson is one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet, and consistently pushed me to write bigger and faster — and by that I mean pace on the page, not daily word count. We ended up writing three complete drafts before getting it right. The research took my wife and I around the world, including Egypt's Valley of the Kings. Thanks to a very helpful local tomb sentinel, we were allowed into Tut's tomb during the midday lunch break, when tourists are kept out. We had the place all to ourselves except of course, for the presence of Tut, whose mummified remains still reside in his tomb.
My editor at Little, Brown, Geoff Shandler, played a major role in helping to write this book. I like to write quickly, but he insisted I slow this one way down and tell a large story set against a vast canvas. I have to admit that it didn't sell very well but I am proud of how this overlooked gem told a little-known story about American history's most famous generals.
I covered the Tour de France each summer for almost ten years during the heyday of the Lance Armstrong run. The bike race itself was spectacular, but I was just as impressed with the behind-the-scenes action — history, wine, scenery, and small town French life. This book is a travelogue more than a sports book, but it captures a time in endurance sports unlike any other.
After writing about Captain Cook (the greatest nautical explorer in history) and Stanley and Livingstone (the greatest African explorers), it became time to challenge myself by writing about the most controversial: Christopher Columbus. The epic tale of his fourth voyage had never been tackled and it was perhaps the greatest sailing adventure in history. A true joy to research and write.
This began as a simple excuse to see a lion in the wild. In the process of writing, it became much more, a worldwide journey of discovery that included getting thrown into an African prison. Into Africa became my breakout book, the most fully realized piece of history until that point. My patient editor at the time, Jason Kaufman, pushed me through ten drafts in order to get the best possible story on the page.
This marked my first foray into attempting to tell history like a page-turning novel instead of a deathly dull academic treatise. Had a great time traveling the world for the research, which would also begin a reversal in the way I viewed story, realizing that no detail was too small to be studied. Back in college, nothing could get me into the library, but after Farther Than Any Man libraries became my second home.
My friend Mark Burnett called one week before filming of the initial Survivor began. He needed a writer for the series' companion book. The only catch was that I needed to leave within three days. Although I thought his idea for this new TV show was never going to work, I needed the work. I ended up spending forty days and nights on Pulau Tiga, enjoying a grown up version of summer camp. Wrote the entire book on the island.
I have long been curious about what motivates men and women to push their personal limits, despite long odds. This devastating story of what happens when a series of killer storms sweeps through a beloved annual sailing competition offered some explanations.
My first real book. I wrote this on spec, detailing my personal journey from the corporate world into the realm of full-time writer. The vehicle which made this possible was the Raid Gauloises, a legendary two-week endurance competition. This book was initially rejected by twenty-one publishers before finally seeing the light of day. When I look back at the book that started it all, this is it.