Stewart’s travelogue is as addicting as the tales of the lost city itself. A freelance writer from Brooklyn, Stewart heard about Ciudad Blanca during an interview with a US solider who had endured the Honduran jungle. Like many who hear stories of far-flung secrets, Stewart was hooked. He scoured satellite images from Google Earth, questioned anyone who is an expert in the field and even contacted relatives of explorer Theodore Ambrose Morde, who searched for the city swallowed by the Honduran jungle back in late 1939 and most of 1940.
In this book, Stewart juxtaposes his own travels and travails with Morde’s. Morde kept a fairly consistent journal — though he maddeningly left out coordinates to the actual city — and with these constant comparisons one realizes just how little has changed in the past 70 years on the Mosquito Coast. It is still miles and miles between villages, sometimes individual shacks. It is a wonder that people live there at all.
Morde returned to America a hero, having claimed to have found a city that he would one day return to excavate and explore. Then WWII began and he was recruited as a spy. He never got back to the magical place in the jungle mist. And he was always rather vague about what he saw. So what was Cuidad Blanca?
For Stewart’s part, he embraces his own weaknesses and does nothing to gloss over his own fears and doubts in the maddening trek. He is perfectly willing to share his own failings in his own journal of sorts. At times the jungle puts him on the brink of madness; at others it offers a clarity in which he can see things perfectly for the first time.
This is a detective story and an adventure in one. Stewart tries to unravel Morde’s cryptic clues while survive days upon days of humid, rugged terrain, dangerous bandits, poisonous wildlife and mental struggles.
The legend of the “white city” hasn’t lost any attention either. Just this summer, a piece was published about laser imagery finding the remains of the city. It says a great deal about human nature, as does Stewart’s book. The inkling inside each of us to explore and find “discover” something that was unknown, or lost — Atlantis, the Library of Alexandria, or the Holy Grail — and not just for wealth and fame. To be the one who did it, who accomplished something considering impossible.
This is a fascinating read and it’s got me wanting to go dig up by backyard. Just to see…
Thank you to HarperCollins for the review copy.
On Sale: 1/8/2013
Trimsize: 6 x 9
Pages: 288; $27.99
Ages: 18 and Up