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A Serpentine Life Cut Short

Bali-based Author Jamie James' 'The Snake Charmer' – a Riveting Account of the Life and Death of Joe Slowinski.


Bali residents and visitors will have the opportunity to attend an important book launch on Saturday, July 19, 2008, at the Periplus Bookshop in Ubud. The Bookshop, located in near the Bintang Supermarket in Campuan, will provide light refreshments and a nest of live snakes to mark the publication of The Snake Charmer: A Life and Death in Pursuit of Knowledge - the latest book by Bali-based author Jamie James.

Jamie James

Jamie James is the author of eight books, including The Music of the Spheres, Other Origins, and Eccentrics: A Study in Sanity and Strangeness. Since 1999, he has lived in Indonesia, where he writes for several American publications including the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, Condé Nast Traveler, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal.

Jamie James will be on hand at the Ubud launch from 3:00-6:00 p.m. to autograph copies of his book.

The Snake Charmer: A Life and Death in Pursuit of Knowledge

Joe Slowinski was a maverick in the field of herpetology. Snakes fascinated him, and he traveled to the brink—both physically and mentally—to discover everything he could about them. In The Snake Charmer: Life and Death in Pursuit of Knowledge (Hyperion; June 3, 2008; Hardcover; $24.95), acclaimed journalist Jamie James tells the true story of this modern-day adventurer's final battle against nature: a riveting tale of exploration, dedication, and tragic death in the jungle.

A daredevil since his youth, Joe was a modern-day adventurer who rose quickly to the top, discovering many new snake species in his exhilarating and all-too-brief career. The Snake Charmer is part biography, part vivid travel literature, and part engrossing pop science, as the narrative transports readers to the wilds of Southeast Asia to witness snake science in action. Amidst the boas, rattlesnakes, and cobras, the captivating, competitive—and sometimes controversial—field of herpetology comes excitingly alive via James' thorough exploration of Joe's relationships, studies, and expeditions animates the passion and charisma he exuded in life.

In 2001, Joe Slowinski was leading an expedition deep in the jungles of Burma, on a quest for rare snakes, lizards and other unidentified life forms. It was the most ambitious scientific expedition to the region ever mounted. Then, at dawn on a rainy morning near the Chinese border, in a catastrophic blunder Joe stuck his hand into the wrong specimen bag and suffered a fatal bite from a krait—the deadliest land serpent in Asia. This accident set into motion one of the most remarkable rescue attempts of modern times, as Slowinski's colleagues kept him alive for 30 hours by mouth-to-mouth respiration, waiting for a rescue that never came.

Through exhaustive research, interviews with Slowinski's family and leading scientists, and the author's own trek into the Burmese wilderness, James artfully chronicles the fascinating world of snake science, Joe's fast-paced career and his last, pulse-pounding struggle against the deadly power of nature. The Snake Charmer recreates not only Joe's tragedy but also the passion that made him one of the most respected scientists in his field. As the title suggests, The Snake Charmer will hypnotize readers from the first page to the last.

The public is cordially invited to attend the launch and meet Jamie James on Saturday, July 19, 2008 at the Periplus Bookshop in Ubud.

Reviews of "The Snake Charmer"

Melissa Rohlin, Los Angeles Times: . . .

James identifies with Slowinski, and the story feels as if the author were joining him on the journey and participating joyfully in its dangers and conquests. He elaborates countless facts and detailed descriptions about herpetology, almost making you want to go snake-catching. It also makes you think that snake catchers must be crazy to enjoy so potentially lethal an occupation.

Publishers Weekly . . .

This book is both a tribute to Slowinski's spirit and scientific accomplishments, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of an overly passionate ambition.

Eric Ormsby, New York Sun . . .

Mr. James tells this odd story with great flair. His book is an affectionate — though not uncritical — biography of Slowinski that also offers a vivid glimpse into the practice of all science today. . . .

In the narrative tradition of "Into the Wild" and "The Perfect Storm," an acclaimed journalist tells the dramatic story of the life and death of modern adventurer Joe Slowinski, the young, charismatic world expert on poisonous snakes.

Linda Greenlaw, author of "The Hungry Ocean" . . .

Absolutely riveting. This sensitive, fascinating exploration of a scientist's quest for knowledge deepens with relentless suspense into a classic tale of a man's fight for survival in the wilderness.

Anne Fadiman, author of "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down" . . .

This book will astonish and delight anyone who believes that the great age of biological collecting—the one that nurtured Charles Darwin, Henry Walter Bates, and Alfred Russell Wallace—is over. Joe Slowinski was a scientist-adventurer of the first order, and Jamie James does a splendid job of capturing the combination of intellectual curiosity and adrenaline that fueled, and eventually ended, his remarkable life.

People Magazine . . .

"The Snake Charmer: 3 ½ stars out of 4!"

[The Snake Charmer Official Website]

The Snake Charmer - Joe Slowinski

click image to enlarge

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