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

Jamie James, Author . Hyperion $24.95 (260p) ISBN 978-1-4013-0213-9

James (The Music of the Spheres ) tells the gritty and sad story of Joe Slowinski, a flamboyant and well-known herpetologist who died in Burma in 2001, aged 38, from the poisonous bite of a krait snake. Different snakes—from the first black rat snake he encountered at age five to the cobras on which his professional success was built—anchor different phases in Slowinski’s life, as James paints a portrait of a man filled with ambition, intelligence, passion and recklessness. The account of the expedition into an unexplored region of northern Burma is chilling—it “set a new standard of misery” for scientific expeditions. After Slowinski was bitten by the krait, he was kept alive for 30 hours, through his companions’ heroic efforts, with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. But the snake’s potent neurotoxin did its work, and Slowinski died deep in the jungle. In the end, 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. 8 pages of color and 8 pages of b&w photos. (June)

Reviewed on: 04/21/2008
Release date: 06/01/2008
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