The story of Sir Richard Francis Burton and John Hanning Speke--their friendship, bitter rivalry, and the two thousand year search for the source of the Nile--is almost too good to be true.
Imagine a story in which two daring adventurers set off to solve the greatest and oldest of geographical mysteries: the source of the Nile. Their journey begins with great fanfare. The young friends travel deep into a forbidding and uncharted wilderness. Their path is fraught with peril: poisonous snakes, deadly spiders, man-eating beasts, and cannibals. Their bodies are wracked by disease. But there is also pleasure, for the explorers are to the liking of the jungle women.
In the end, the mystery is solved.
But there's a catch. Each man has come up with a different answer.
They fight. Their friendship shatters. They split up in the heart of Africa and race back to civilization, each man striving to be the first to announce his findings to an adoring public. The man who wins the race is lionized as a national hero, only to have his claims publicly repudiated when the second explorer straggles home. The feud becomes an international sensation. A master showman arrives on the scene, one who decrees that the answer will be decided with a single public debate. It will be a massive spectacle, in the manner of a heavyweight prize fight. The answer will literally change the course of history.
The world is watching and waiting, eager to know the outcome. The loser will be disgraced. The winner is guaranteed fame and riches.
But the result is far more dramatic than anyone has a right to expect.
This, written with thrilling, page-turning, novelistic verve, is that story.