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About the Author

David Grann is a staff writer at The New Yorker. He graduated from Connecticut College in 1989, and earned a master's degree in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy and a master's degree from Boston College in creative writing. He has written for The New York Times show more Magazine, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The New Republic. His stories have been published in numerous anthologies of American writing. His books include The Devil and Sherlock Holmes, The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon which won the Indies Choice award for the best nonfiction book of 2009, and Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. (Bowker Author Biography) show less

Includes the name: David Grann

Image credit: Journalist David Grann at the 2018 Texas Book Festival in Austin, Texas, United States. By Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74143259

Works by David Grann

Associated Works

The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2009 (2009) — Contributor — 368 copies, 9 reviews
The Best American Magazine Writing 2010 (2010) — Contributor — 44 copies
Wise Guys: Stories of Mobsters from Jersey to Vegas (2003) — Contributor — 6 copies


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Common Knowledge



In 1740, "The Wager" was part of a squadron of six warships on a mission to sail around Cape Horn to the coast of Chile and cut off Spanish treasure galleons. Among the crew are Lieut. Cheap, Capt. Anson, Capt. Kidd (descendant), John Byron (Lord Byron's grandfather), marine Capt. Pemberton, midshipman Cozens, gunner Bulkeley and carpenter's mate Mitchell among others. Typhus plagues the ships and 160 of 2,000 die before they even reach Brazil. After the death of Kidd, Cheap is promoted to Capt. of the Wager. In Summer 1741, they headed into Cape Horn, not knowing that it was the most dangerous time to do so. "Below 40° latitude, there is no law, Below 50° there is no God" and so it went. Scurvy reduced the squadron to half its manpower, with ceaseless storms battering the rest. Then the Wager found itself utterly alone, wrecked on the shore of an unknown island. But the worst - starvation, murder and mutiny - was yet to come.

If you want dramatic, suspenseful, popular nonfiction that doesn't overstay it's welcome, look no further than "The Wager." I appreciated that Grann focused on only a few members of each faction, to give the reader a chance to "pick a side" or not, sympathize and be engaged. I felt for Byron the most, a disillusioned teenager sold on promises of glory. I appreciate Grann's choice to dedicate a chapter to each group of survivors once they got separated. It added some objective structure to all the chaos. Grann allows the court testimonies, the survivors' actions and journals speak for themselves; no creative liberties needed. Grann also takes a firm stance on behalf of the native Kawésqar encountered by the Englishmen. Local natives tried to help them but imperial prejudices overrode common sense. Definitely recommend it for anyone interested in maritime history, but also in true crime!
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asukamaxwell | 75 other reviews | Jul 15, 2024 |
The Wager, David Grann, author
The year is 1740. Once a year, the Spaniards sailed to the Philippines with silver from their colonies in South America, to buy goods, and then they transported them back to Spain. The English wanted that treasure and hoped to intercept the Spanish Armada to obtain it. They pressed innocent men into service, kidnapping them to serve on the ships and go to war. However, the ships were fragile; they were made of wood, and they were mastered by the weather. What started as a force of seven vulnerable ships shrunk, as each, one by one, succumbed to nature’s violence and were shipwrecked. Then illness caused by starvation and lack of appropriate nutrients began to take a toll. A fragile ship became more and more unsafe. Accidents occurred. Surgery was often performed without anesthesia. The men suffered. They would weather one storm and it would be followed by another. They became ill with Scurvy, for which they knew no remedy. The lack of hygiene caused lice to multiply. As the ships became a haven for the disease and infestation, the men succumbed, one by one. Soon, they were shipwrecked and became castaways for months. Using whatever they could salvage, they built boats and attempted to reach land and save themselves. Although they started out with about 2000 men, by the time, years later, that any surviving ships limped in to a port, barely 10%, in total, had survived to tell the tale. Nature’s violence and the elements, vitamin deficiencies, starvation, rebellion and jealousy sowed seeds of despair. When they survivors reached the shore, they were enemies and were arrested. They each spun a tale about their plight, but the take each spun was not always completely accurate or the same, since each wanted to survive and not be considered guilty of a crime. They had already suffered so much.
This book tells the story of one ship, in particular, The Wager, but it encompasses the tale of the other six as well. The commanding officers were of the elite, the captains were loyal to their ships, the mates were not always loyal to their captain. As hardship mounted up, some sailors mutinied, but others stayed loyal. This is a true story of courage and fortitude, but it is also a story of man’s inhumanity to man. The castaways suffered from starvation, the weather, lack of shelter, and fear of never being found. Soon, desperation made many men do the things that would ordinarily be unthinkable, but there were also troublemakers who stirred up the disgruntled men and spurred them to rebel.
After years, eventually, several groups of castaways, some from different vessels, wound up on the shores of South America where they found themselves captured. Once again, they suffered, but were eventually released. They made their way back to England, some 5 or so years later, and were thought dead by many friends and family. They were happy to be home, but after a book was published by the gunner on The Wager, John Bulkeley, who had kept copious journals and was one of the mutineers, Captain Cheap realized his behavior was called into question by the author. To clear his name, the captain, David Cheap, filed court martial charges against the mutineers. They, in turn, charged him with the murder of their fellow sailor. They presented their cases at the trial.
The book tells a little-known tale. Although it starts off a bit slow with a great deal of description and background, by the middle of the book, the pace picks up and is truly an exciting story of courage in the face of the most devastating circumstances. It is also the story of the depravity to which men may sink when desperate. The one thing it shows is that no one wins in war.
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thewanderingjew | 75 other reviews | Jul 13, 2024 |
"Killers of the Flower Moon" was picked out by our Book Palaver member; it's not a book I would normally read.

It details the scores (if not hundreds) of murders that took place in the early 20th Century of Osage Indians. Because the Osage had been forced to live on this land (before it was known it had copious amounts of oil below it), they were awarded huge sums of money annually from the federal government once the oil was discovered. But because there was a belief that the Indians didn't have the capacity to manage that kind of money, white leaders and/or relatives were given the right to control that money. Upon death, the guardians then owned that money so the motive was clearly there.

I felt like the writing was just OK. I much better book along these lines is "The Devil in the White City."
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Jarratt | 316 other reviews | Jul 7, 2024 |
The Wager was a ramshackle ship in a British naval squadron that had set out on August 27, 1740 to capture a Spanish treasure vessel off the coast of Chile. While rounding the southern point of South America, it was badly damaged in a series of storms and became wrecked on the shore of an unnamed island that was christen after the ship. Assumed lost with all hands by the rest of the squadron, it was a welcome surprise when 30 sailors landed in Brazil and were returned home to England.

Six months later another six survivors turned up in Chili. Both groups told unbelievable stories of great hardship including starvation, cannibalism, lack of water and incredible seamanship in vessels built from the remains of their original ships and boats. While their stories appear to be fiction, the sailors' journals and verbal accounts confirm the truth.

An incredible read for those who enjoy true stories of adventure and survival.
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lamour | 75 other reviews | Jul 7, 2024 |



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