In the summer of 1925 Colonel P H Fawcett and his two intrepid companions embarked on a journey into a dangerous and largely unexplored region of Brazil. They were never seen again. Fleming's interest was roused by the following improbable advertisement in the Times in 1925: "Exploring and sporting expedition, under experienced guidance, leaving England June to explore rivers Central Brazil, if possible ascertain fate Colonel Fawcett; abundance game, big and small; exceptional fishing; ROOM TWO MORE GUNS; highest references expected and given.Write Box X, The Times, EC4."
After days of indecision Fleming contacts Box X, letters are exchanged and a meeting takes place, and before long he finds himself committed to a venture "for which Rider Haggard might have written the plot and [Joseph] Conrad designed the scenery."
Fleming's adventure forms the foundations for one of this century's classic adventure books that has just been re-issued by Pimlico. A tenner might seem a bit steep for a paperback but Fleming certainly gives good value for the money in a tale that is a cross between Doyle's Lost World and Conrad's Heart of Darkness.
Country Walks & Scenic Drives (Reader's Digest, pounds 29.95) edited by Henrietta Heald
Reader's Digest has gathered together 300 of the most pleasant weekend walks and 100 scenic routes to reach them by road, in some of Britain's most beautiful countryside. But it's not really a book; it's more of a collection of 400 or so loose A4 pages that fit snugly into a sturdy ring binder. The idea is that you remove your selected walk from the binder and place it in the provided waterproof plastic wallet. Thus, your walk is not encumbered by the hefty file.
The layout of the file is easy to get to grips with, although a contents page might have been a worthwhile addition. The walks vary in character and difficulty; the average is a round trip of four to six miles miles and takes about two to three hours. All come with clear maps, glossy colour pictures and an explicit description of the route.
Almost two-thirds of the walks are in England, which is a shame as the majority of Britain's most ruggedly inspiring countryside is to be found in the upland areas of Wales and Scotland. But as the file is clearly aimed directly at the Sunday Driver and Weekend Walker market, Reader's Digest can probably justify its choice on the grounds of accessibility.