Buried Treasure

Will Self on Nicholas Tomalin and Ron Hall's 'The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst'
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Nicholas Tomalin and Ron Hall's The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst (Adlard Coles Nautical) is one of my favourite books of all time. Crowhurst was a late and comparatively inexperienced entrant for the 1968 round-the-world yacht race, who hoped that victory would ensure sales of a navigational device he had invented and thus save his flagging fortunes. An inveterate entrepreneur, he staked everything - and lost everything. His yacht was flagging from the start, and at some point he decided to cheat, lying low in the Atlantic while the other yachts completed the circumnavigation, and then rejoining the race so as to finish (perhaps) in second place. He falsified his log and puttered about in the doldrums. However, his conscience and events took their toll. As competitors dropped out, he grasped that his deception would be unmasked. His yacht was found months later, sailing along like the Mary Celeste. There was no sign of Crowhurst save for his increasingly deranged journal: self-exculpatory jottings mixed with mystical revelations. Tomalin - who was killed covering the Yom Kippur War - co-wrote a work of high drama in the best tradition of British reportage. This is at once a detective story, a sea story and a journey into the spiritual heart of darkness. I cannot understand why this masterpiece isn't better regarded.

Will Self's 'Dr Mukti and other tales of woe' is published by Bloomsbury