The section on Jonestown - where the Oakland, Calif.-based Peoples' Temple mass suicide/massacre happened in November 1978 - was particularly compelling for me.
I lived in Northern California when that all took place and watched in horror from a distance.
And to this day, when people say that someone 'drank the Kool-aid' they mean someone has swallowed a line of dangerous bullshit. For the hundreds of people at the Peoples' Temple in the jungle, the Kool-aid drinks ended in their deaths.
The whole thing still makes me wince, though the author reveals some details about the event that I didn't know. Yes, you will have to read it yourself to see some of the nuance of what I think major media missed.
Gimlette's book is a first-person account as he travels by dugout canoe, on foot, by steamer, aboard a tugboat and sometimes in strange cars with even stranger people. Yet the character of the jungles and rivers of these nation-states rival the people he meets as he researches the book. It's hard to read parts of Wild Coast without breaking out in a sympathetic humidity-drenched sweat.
This is no armchair travelogue trying to convince you to take a vacation. Only the most neurotic of travelers would read any of this and think, 'Gee, let's pack and bag and head off to Surinam for the weekend.'
Still, a part of me read this book and wants to tour these great rivers, meet the people and see the historical sites he did - even if they are in tatters or barely there.
As I read about the caimans, the snakes, the oily water and piranha-like fish, I kept thinking of the late gapped-tooth British actor Terry Thomas, whose character in a film talked about traveling in Africa along 'the great gray-green greasy Zambezi.'
He would have been quite at home in a movie based on Wild Coast.
The great gray-green greasy Zambezi, indeed.