Already substantially invested in North Africa, the French created a national commission to study the possibilities, setting in motion a fine example of debacle by committee.
This book is about a colonel in the French military who in 1881 was completely consumed with his love for 2 things: 1. His love and desire for fame, which to his dismay had eluded him his entire life. 2. His love of the Sahara desert.
To pursue them both, he brushed aside all good advice and agreed with one lone crier who said that all would be well if he trekked across the Sahara to the famed city of Timbuktu. His backers saw nothing but gold when they thought of that illustrious city. Colonel Flatters and over 80 of the 96 men who left Algiers with him on the first French expedition to cross the Sahara desert, all perished. As we used to say in East Oakland, “THEY GOT WHOOPED”. The few starved, dehydrated and injured stragglers who staggered into a French owned settlement called Wargla less than a year later would never be the same. They reported a horror story from which they barely escaped with their lives. Their statements along with Flatter’s letters to his wife and military records of the failed expedition became the basis for this book. The great morals of this book are things we already know. Number 1:Don’t be a greedy fool! Number 2: Bloom where you’re planted. Ask yourself, “Do you really need the desert….Does it really need you?” Number 3: There’s a reason why they call it GOOD advice! As the author notes, Colonel Flatters did finally achieve the fame that he always wanted, but only for the completely unnecessary and foolish way in which he died. The author indicates that Flatters saw the danger and walked right into it. I found this book to be an excellent follow up to Skeleton’s on the Sahara and Death Raft which describes further blunders of the 19th century French Military.
Check the BPL catalog for this title: Death in the Sahara