Talk about a real life action adventure story all wrapped into a great nonfiction history book. From writer Paul Schneider (The Enduring Shore, The Adirondacks) comes Brutal Journey: The Epic Story Of The First Crossing Of North America, an amazing tale of fortune and misfortune, starvation, violence, and running the gamut from nothing to everything and back again. In spite of his failures, conquistador Pánfilo de Narváez was given another chance by the king of Spain, and sole proprietorship of what is now the deep south of the United States. But his journey was a complete disaster; it was, in a word – brutal. From the introduction:
“On Good Friday of 1528 an army of four hundred Spaniards, Africans, and Caribbean natives landed in the vicinity of Tampa Bay, Florida under the middle-aged conquistador with a last-chance license to conquer North America. They promptly disappeared without a trace into the swamps and, except for a small contingent that remained on board the ships, were soon assumed to be dead. But then, eight years and thousands of miles later, three Spaniards and a Moroccan wandered out of what is now the United States into what was then Cortes’s gold-drenched Mexico. They brought nothing back from their sojourn in the ‘unknown’ north other than their story, for as one of them said later, “This alone is what a man who came away naked could carry without him.”
Having only two first-hand historical documents to work from (one of which is still in print) along with tons of research, Schneider deftly crafts vivid scenes of the starving Spaniards as they went from superior to enslaved by the native people of the land. Eventually, one man, Esteban, leads what is left of the group back into Mexico only to be forced back into being a slave for his effort. Schneider’s extraordinary flair for writing both the brutal and dramatic makes this an amazing, educational, and action-packed read. It is an absolutely stunning, page-turning experience.
Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Bobby Blades, 2006