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The Whitbread Award-winning author of The Last King of Scotland brings his extensive knowledge of Africa to his first work of nonfiction: the incredible true story that inspired the classic film The African Queen.
When the First World War breaks out, the British navy is committed to engaging the enemy wherever there is water to float a ship—even if the body of water in question is a remote African lake and the enemy an intimidating fleet of German steamers. The leader of this improbable mission is Geoffrey Spicer-Simson, the oldest lieutenant commander in the navy, whose career thus far had been distinguished by two sinkings. His seemingly impossible charge: to trek overland through the African bush hauling Mimi and Toutou—two forty-foot mahogany gunboats—and defeat the Germans on Lake Tanganyika. Spicer-Simson sets forth on a lunatic 2,800-mile journey with a band of cantankerous, insubordinate Scotsmen, Irishmen and Englishmen. After going into battle wearing a skirt and becoming the god of an African tribe by showing them his tattoos, he is acclaimed a hero. But the truth about the battle is somewhat more complex.
With its powerfully evoked landscape, cast of hilariously colorful characters and remarkable story of hubris, ingenuity and perseverance, Mimi and Toutou’s Big Adventure is history at its most entertaining and absorbing.
“The African Queen is renowned as one of the toughest and craziest shoots in cinematic history. But it was nothing compared to the first world war British naval escapade which lay behind the film, as Giles Foden's new book reveals.” —The Guardian
“A delightful slice of backwater history…Giles Foden, widely remembered for the brilliant sport he had with Idi Amin of Uganda in the Last King of Scotland, writes with wit and wears his scholarship lightly…I have nothing but praise for this account of a colonial affair that inspired C.S. Forester to write the story that was filmed as the African Queen.” —Literary Review
“Spicer, a fantasist, a braggart, and a rank incompetent, is one of the great attractions of this story…a classic saga of imperial derring-do, told in an engagingly guileless style, full of absurd detail. A very entertaining and agreeable book.” —Arts Telegraph
“Jaw-droppingly incredible…the pleasure of Foden's tale is in its constant surprises.” —Scotland on Sunday
“This is a classic tale of amateurisim triumphing over more orthodox and disciplined opponents…Giles Foden knows a great deal about Africa.” —The Observer
“Highly entertaining.” —The Telegraph
“A real romp through the heart of darkness and extremely funny. He manages to skillfully explore the great British tradition of the bumbling amateur stumbling on success, at the same time conveying his love for Africa…Giles Foden has brought to life one of the strangest episodes of the first world war.” —Sunday Times