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A Journey Into the Heart of the Congo

Author: Redmond O'Hanlon

Lit with humor, full of African birdsong and told with great narrative force, No Mercy is the magnum opus of "probably the finest writer of travel books in the English language,"  as Bill Bryson wrote in Outside, "and certainly the most daring." 

O’Hanlon has journeyed among headhunters in deepest Borneo with the poet James Fenton (Into the Heart of Borneo), and amid the most reticent, imperiled and violent tribe in the Amazon Basin with a night-club manager (In Trouble Again). This, however, is perhaps his boldest journey yet. Accompanied by Larry Shaffer–an American friend and animal behaviorist, a man of imperfect health and brave decency–he enters the unmapped swamp-forests of the People’s Republic of the Congo, in search of a dinosaur rumored to have survived in a remote prehistoric lake.

The flora and fauna of the Congo are unrivalled, and with passion O’Hanlon describes scores of rare and fascinating animals: eagles and parrots, gorillas and chimpanzees, swamp antelope and forest elephants. But as he was repeatedly warned, the night belongs to Africa, and threats both natural (cobras, crocodiles, lethal insects) and supernatural (from all-powerful sorcerers to Samalé, a beast whose three-clawed hands rip you across the back) make this a saga of much fear and trembling. Omnipresent too are ecological depredations, political and tribal brutality, terrible illness and unnecessary suffering among the forest pygmies, and an appalling waste of human life throughout this little-explored region.

An elegant, disturbing and deeply compassionate evocation of a vanishing world, extraordinary in its depth, scope and range of characters, No Mercy is a work of travel, adventure and natural history. A quest for the meaning of magic and the purpose of religion, and a celebration of the comforts and mysteries of science, it is also–and above all–a powerful guide to the humanity that prevails even in the very heart of darkness.

From Library Journal
O'Hanlon's current driving passion, after journeying among the Amazon's headhunters in his most recent In Trouble Again, is to catch a glimpse of the African version of the Loch Ness monster: the legendary Mokele-mbembe dinosaur residing in the unreachable depths of Lake Tele, deep in the northern Congo forests. Intrepid, or merely insensible to pain, O'Hanlon ventures forth, armed with antivenom serums and innumerable medicines against alarmingly resistant diseases; bribes for officials of the Marxist People's Republic of the Congo; presents for the Pygmies he hopes to find; a crusty scientist companion, Larry Shaffer, from Plattsburgh, New York; and volumes of birding guides and H.M. Stanley's chronicles of travels into Africa before him. Neither hostile local chiefs nor an army of skin-crawling bedevilments will thwart our O'Hanlon from his goal. His account is minute and ironical, given lively relief by Shaffer's gallows humor. It offers compelling reading, for seasoned travelers and couch potatoes alike, and includes an excellent bibliography of the rich history, wildlife, and exploration of the Congo. Highly recommended. Amy Boaz
©1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
$12.99 (softcover)
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