Rising Star: David Grann Author

At the luxuriously funded 'New Yorker' magazine, they have a reputation for taking their time to get the story right.

The mysteries investigated there by staff writer David Grann range from the New York sewer system to the strange death of a Sherlock Holmes expert.

And Grann published his first book on the dignified side of 40. 'The Lost City of Z' promptly scooted into the American top 10, and over here has now reached the shortlist of the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction.

Both a ripping and a ripped-up yarn, it tells the story of British Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett, who in the 1920s turned proto-Indiana Jones when he set off into the Amazonian jungle in quest of a lost civilisation. Needless to say, he never returned.

Grann's account layers – in archaeologist's fashion – Fawcett's doomed journey with the hapless followers who went to find him, and the author's own jaunt into the wilds.

Whether the rainforest romp or the literary refractions of it took his fancy, Brad Pitt's film company has optioned Grann's book for a real-life trip into crystal-skull territory.