My body spent the morning babysitting a live truck outside Winston-Salem's Sawtooth Center, but my mind stumbled across the scorching desert floor of northwest Africa, flanked by 19th century sailors who'd survived a shipwreck only to be enslaved by the nomadic Sahrawi tribes. The fate of the Connecticut merchant ship Commerce and its crew has always loomed large in the true adventure canon. Now, author Dean King has combined the two firsthand accounts of the Commerce sailors' horrific plight in a book that's currently thrusting a scabbard under my imagination's bone-dry throat. Skeletons on the Zahara tells the story of Captain James Riley and his men, who after wandering in delirium in a hostile land, are dragged 800 miles across the unforgiving Sahara desert by a seemingly sadistic group of natives they barely consider to even be human. I'm only a hundred pages in, but already I'm enthralled in this true life tale of astonishing misfortune, unthinkable deprivation and ultimately, the unlikeliest of survivals.
But then again, I've always been a sucker for expeditions gone awry. From deep sea divers entangling themselves in watery tombs, to parched Europeans dying on ice floes adrift, I'm always up for a chronicle of distress. Besides, all that hunger, doom and torment almost makes pulling a torturous morning shift not seem so bad. Almost.