In the summer of 1925 Colonel Fawcett – soldier, spy and legendary explorer – embarked on a journey into the dark and uncharted heart of Brazil in search of the lost ‘City of Z’. He was never seen again. Rumours abounded – that Fawcett had been killed by Indians or wild animals or that he had lost his memory and become chief of a cannibal tribe – and many became obsessed with discovering what had become of him. In 1932, when ‘The Times’ advertised for ‘guns’ to join an expedition to find Fawcett, the lure was too great for a young Peter Fleming and he immediately signed up, intending to send dazzling dispatches from the jungle. The expedition set out from Sao Paulo and, following tributaries of the Amazon, headed to Fawcett’s last-known position. What followed was, in Fleming’s words, ‘a venture for which Rider Haggard might have written the plot and Conrad designed the scenery’. As the expedition forged its way deeper into the Amazon, disagreements fractured the group and the entire adventure ended in a chaotic race to be the first to report back home. Though the fate of Colonel Fawcett remains a mystery, Peter Fleming’s wild escapade in the heart of Brazil has become one of the 20th century’s best-loved travel classics.

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