Headhunters On My Doorstep: A True Treasure Island Ghost Story

Paperback | June 3, 2014

byJ. Maarten Troost

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Follow in the footsteps of Robert Louis Stevenson with J. Maarten Troost, the bestselling author of The Sex Lives of Cannibals.
 
Readers and critics alike adore J. Maarten Troost for his signature wry and witty take on the adventure memoir. Headhunters on My Doorstep chronicles Troost’s return to the South Pacific after his struggle with alcoholism left him numb to life. Deciding to retrace the path once traveled by the author of Treasure Island, Troost follows Robert Louis Stevenson to the Marquesas, the Tuamotus, Tahiti, Kiribati, and Samoa, tumbling from one comic misadventure to another. Headhunters on My Doorstep is a funny yet poignant account of one man’s journey to find himself that will captivate travel writing aficionados, Robert Louis Stevenson fans, and anyone who has ever lost his way.

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From the Publisher

Follow in the footsteps of Robert Louis Stevenson with J. Maarten Troost, the bestselling author of The Sex Lives of Cannibals. Readers and critics alike adore J. Maarten Troost for his signature wry and witty take on the adventure memoir. Headhunters on My Doorstep chronicles Troost’s return to the South Pacific after his struggle wit...

J. Maarten Troost was a consultant for the World Bank and has lived in the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Canada, Kiribati, Fiji, and Vanuatu, among other exotic locations, before settling down near Washington, D.C.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:272 pages, 8 × 5.4 × 0.7 inPublished:June 3, 2014Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1592408737

ISBN - 13:9781592408733

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Chapter OneEveryone has problems. Spend a few moments catching up with friends and you’re likely to hear a litany of catastrophes.“I lost my job at the prison,” one might say.“I’m going to prison,” says another.“I’m about to lose my home.”“I blew mine up to collect the insurance.”“My ferret died.”“I ate mine.”“. . .”“Long story.”Tales of woe had become inescapable. What were once simple quandaries now seemed to come equipped with trapdoors. One misstep and you’d tumble into the chute of doom, where demotions became terminations, homeowners became squatters, and Little Bandit was no longer safe. I was no exception. I too had problems. Multitudes of problems. If something could go wrong, it usually did. The only law that seemed to apply to me was Mr. Murphy’s. For a long while, decades even, the sun had shone upon me. Life had been an effortless glide. I’d traveled the world, married my soul mate, sired two strapping boys, and wrote books that— I’ve been confidently informed—landed on the bestseller list in Eugene, Oregon. I couldn’t explain why good things happened to me. They just did. But then, like a bad Chinese proverb, my good fortune evaporated like a spilled Slurpee in a Phoenix parking lot. Everything that could go wrong . . . was not a thought I dared to finish. It could always get worse, and usually it did.What’d happened? I wondered. Good luck seeks no antecedent, but bad luck demands an inquest. Was it simply written in the cosmos? Did the yin of happiness necessitate the yang of misery? Could it simply be bad karma? No, I thought, as I reflected on the causes of my misfortune. Behind every event, every circumstance, lay a cold, hard trail of facts. I needed only to follow the breadcrumbs of past experience to bring me to the source of my tribulations. And there, sadly, I found something immense and unmovable:Continents.Bad things happened to me on large land masses. Terrible things. This was a most unfortunate realization, of course. How I’d hoped to discover an unhappy childhood, an unjust prison sentence, or a soul-scarring bout of acne to explain the recent trajectory of my life. Who wants to blame their woes on something as inalterable as the North American tectonic plate? After all, continents are— at the very least— nice to look at. I too could admire majestic, snow-glazed mountains, the rivers that flowed with the tide of history, the buzz of the megacity. I am, for the record, appreciative of boreal forests and rain forests, deserts, and the vast expanse of the northern tundra. I like New York and Los Angeles, as well as Mumbai, Shanghai, and Dubai. I am fond of small towns. Also apple pie and yak, though not together. All this can be found on continents. But, alas, experience tells me that if I’m not surrounded by an ocean, my life crumbles like a stale cookie.It’s true.Take my most recent sojourn in North America. I’d protected my well-being by living on a peninsula. Surrounded by water on three sides, I navigated the perils of the modern world, and whenever events or situations threatened to leave my eyes agog and my head a- splitting, I retreated to a rented sailboat, where secure in a finite space surrounded by the infinite blue of the ocean, I navigated pitching waves and morning fog with an aplomb that failed me on dry land. On water I was free and sure; on land I felt like a lost fish. But then, chasing a job, I moved deeper into the continent, distant from familiar waters and sandy dunes, and there I fell.Into the bottle to be precise. This wasn’t entirely unexpected. In retrospect, it was probably a foregone conclusion. I’d always had a temperamental shut-off valve. Open-minded to the mind-altering, I’d long ago learned to be wary of the seductive offerings of both the street and the pharmacy. I’d known that drugs could be a problem and that it was best to dispense with the experimentation early on. I pretty much maxed out on magic mushrooms. Instead, I’d settled into the steady companionship of pint glasses and decanters. Like everyone. It was normal, no? A few beers at the bar; wine with dinner. It was all good. In fact, hard liquor was a no-no in my world— until, eventually, it wasn’t, and there was that unknown moment when the proverbial invisible line was crossed, when everything started to tumble with a terrifying ferocity, and despite untold As-God-Is-My-Witness promises to get this under control, to show some restraint, I couldn’t. I couldn’t stop. Not until my wife, bless her, deposited me at rehab, where, sedated with Librium, I learned that lucky-ducky that I was, I had a fatal brain disease and should I ever pick up a drink again I might as well put five bullets in a six-shooter and shove it down my piehole.So this was bad. And it happened on a continent. In my mind, the case was closed.

Editorial Reviews

"Exuberant."—The New York Times Book Review“A splendid travel memoir.”—Booklist (starred review) “A rambunctious, intimate trip well worth the armchair time.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)“Troost is a new generation’s answer to Bill Bryson.”—BookPage   “Troost displays a level of sophistication rarely found in travel writing.  His humor is spot on, and one needs humor when reading about the loss of indigenous culture in the Marquesas, the urban sprawl of Tahiti, and the notion that Kiribati as a nation may soon be subsumed by the Pacific Ocean. Acquire this book by any means possible.”—Library Journal“[Troost] crafts exquisite paragraphs that capture the seductive beauty of the islands”—National Geographic TravelerPraise for the hardcoverTroost's sly wit permeates the narrative, propelling his saga out of the ranks of many recovery memoirs. The author weaves together entertaining and illuminating pop-culture touchstones, history, and cultural, culinary and literary references with personal experiences while rambling across the South Seas...A rambunctious, intimate trip well worth the armchair time.(starred review) — Kirkus Reviews“[Troost] crafts exquisite paragraphs that capture the seductive beauty of the islands…[and] unsheathes the same laugh-out-loud wit that marked Cannibals…Troost is an insightful guide, who can see beyond the superficial shimmer to the complexities underneath...Ultimately, Troost’s tale is a celebration of persistence: his own persistent refusal to be seduced by alcohol, Stevenson’s persistent triumph over the tuberculosis and other diseases that wracked his body but didn’t conquer his spirit until he succumbed at the age of 44 on his beloved Samoa, and the persistent allure of those far-flung tropical specks of sand, as much fantasy as reality perhaps, but essential all the same.” — National GeographicPraise for The Sex Lives of Cannibals“Troost has a command of place and narrative that puts him in the company of some of today’s best travel writers." — Elle"Hilarious"(Top 10 Memoirs) — Publisher's Weekly“A comic masterwork of travel writing” — Publishers Weekly“A delightful, self-depreciating, extremely sly account of life in a place so wretched it gives new, terrible meaning to getting away from it all.” — National Geographic Adventure"The Sex Lives of Cannibals is certain to be one of the most harrowing, witty and satisfying books of the summer... hilarious." -Tuscon Citizen"Books touted as "laugh-out-loud funny" frequently aren't, but fist-time author Troost has succeeded... Full of tall tales, ironic philosophizing and beer jokes, the book skewers the notion that 'civilized' Western ways are always a good thing." -Newsweek International“Troost has found his calling in broadly humorous travel writing. He's a natural: he can evoke a place with an ardor that will have you wanting to jump on the first plane; he's read his history; he's no chump when it comes to the ironies and iniquities of politics… He can write an entire engaging chapter on the day the beer ran out in Tarawa…. [but] also laugh at himself, almost as often as the islanders do. Troost… lives up to the billing as ‘a travel, adventure, humor, memoir kind of book’-and a really good one, at that.” — Kirkus ReviewsPraise for Getting Stoned with Savages:“Troost is a funny, candid, and down-to-earth travel companion.” — Entertainment Weekly“Troost manages to relate his misadventures in an irreverently funny style . . . this makes for a good beach read on your own vacation.” — Pittsburgh Tribune-Review“One of Troost’s greatest successes is that he’s not reporting, exactly, not writing as a journalist would, but simply living his life in a faraway place and writing about it.” — The New York Times“Troost… is a travel writer who delivers the gratifying, old-school goods: curious cultural practices; encounters with venomous, nay murderous, creatures; perspective on recent history, with all the chaos wrought by European interlopers.”-Kirkus Reviews"Those who enjoyed... The Sex Lives of Cannibals will not be disappointed with this follow-up... readers sitting in offices, yearning to break free and live on a tropical isle, [Getting Stoned with Savages] provides a wonderful, witty view into the experience- the good and the bad. Recommended for all libraries." — Library JournalPraise for Lost on Planet China; One Man's Attempt to Understand the World's Most Mystifying Nation“Funny, insightful. China as you’ve never read it before.” — National Geographic Traveler“At once breezy, funny, and edgy, with enough good reporting to make you feel what it’s like to walk China’s real streets.” — Houston Chronicle“There are moments of humor and poignancy: an unsettling dalliance with an English translator called Meow Meow and an encounter with child beggars camped beneath a JumboTron screen in Qingdao that’s broadcasting an N.B.A playoff game.” — New York Times Book Review“Troost’s crisp, engaging prose invites the reader to experience his adventures right alongside him. At turns meditative, whimsical, humorous, and shocked, Troost is an excellent guide to the vast, multifaceted country that is modern-day China.” — Booklist“Made me laugh out loud more times then I can remember…Troost is already being lauded as the new generation’s answer to Bill Bryson; in my view , his wirting is markedly different, but it will definitely find an appreciative audience among Bryson fans.” — Bookpage“Troost’s adventures are peppered with tremendous humor… and he’s magnificent writing about himself in the role of the bumbling Westerner. Readers will howl over his gastronomic imbroglios as well as his knack for attracting opportunistic, overly friendly women who offer their services as ‘tour guides.’” — Kirkus Reviews“Troost is refreshingly upbeat… readers interested in a warts-and-all look at this complicated, evolving country will find this rich in education.” — Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)“This is one of the year’s best travel books.” — World Hum“Funny and engrossing.” — Barre Montpelier Times Argus“Troost is the kind of guy with whom you’d drink a few beers, swap some stories, and laugh until you cry.” — Winnipeg Free Press“Readers of the world should rejoice… Lost on Planet China is every bit as entertaining as [Troost’s] previous two. With his biting, self-depreciating wit, Troost becomes the perfect traveling companion. An example of travel writing at its best. Settle back and enjoy one of the most rollicking literary vacations yet.” — Tucson Citizen“Hilarious.” — National Geographic Adventure“It's a pleasure to travel with him… [a] hilarious and cutting narrative.” — Chicago Tribune“Lost on Planet China seems to follow the Paul Theroux school of travel writing.”  — Lonely Planet