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Chasing the Devil: On Foot Through Africa's Killing Fields [Paperback]

Tim Butcher
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
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Book Description

28 April 2011

For many years war made Sierra Leone and Liberia too dangerous for outsiders to travel through. Facing down demons from his time in Africa as a journalist, Tim Butcher heads deep into this combat zone, encountering the devastation wrought by lawless militia, child soldiers, brutal violence, blood diamonds and masked figures who guard the spiritual secrets of remote jungle communities.

On an epic journey that demands courage, doggedness and sheer luck, Butcher treks for 350 blistering miles through rainforest and malarial swamps to gain an extraordinary ground-level view of an overlooked region on the cusp of a remarkable recovery.

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Chasing the Devil: On Foot Through Africa's Killing Fields + Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart
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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (28 April 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099532069
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099532064
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 42,296 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tim Butcher is a British best-selling author and explorer whose books blend history with travel.

His latest, The Trigger, tells the story of the young man who sparked the First World War a hundred years ago by shooting dead Archduke Franz Ferdinand on a street corner in Sarajevo. Tim trekked across Bosnia and part of Serbia on the trail of history's greatest assassin, Gavrilo Princip, making a number of discoveries missed by a century of historians.

His first book, Blood River - A Journey To Africa's Broken Heart, told the story of an epic solo journey through the Congo. Translated into six languages, it topped the Sunday Times best-seller list in Britain and was shortlisted for various awards from the Samuel Johnson Prize in London to the Ryszard Kapuściński Award in Warsaw.

For his second, Chasing The Devil, he walked for 350 miles through Liberia along a trail blazed by a whisky-sozzled Graham Greene in 1935. He discovered, among other things, that Greene's life was saved by his indomitable but unsung cousin, Barbara Greene. The book made it onto the longlist for the George Orwell

A former foreign correspondent with The Daily Telegraph, Tim specialised in covering awkward places at awkward times: Kurdistan under attack in 1991 by Saddam Hussein, Sarajevo during the Bosnian War of the 1990s, the Allied attack on Iraq in 2003, Israel's 2006 clash with Hizbollah in southern Lebanon among other crises.

He was awarded the 2013 Mungo Park Medal for exploration by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society and in 2010 received an honorary doctorate from the University of Northampton for services to writing. Born in 1967 he is based in Cape Town with his family.

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Product Description


"This adventurous book, in the footsteps of Graham Greene, in many ways goes deeper than Greene, and shows the enduring beauty and danger in Sierra Leone and Liberia"--Paul Theroux

"Intrepid traveller, Tim Butcher, dares to venture into Africa’s dark heart where he records, with perceptive eye and polished pen, the other world he finds there. If Africa interests you, then this book will fascinate you"--Wilbur Smith

"Amazing. As history, as anthropology, as a ripping yarn. Both exploration of an epic journey--and a hard yet sympathetic look at a Utopia-gone wrong"--Anthony Bourdain

"Butcher's research, combined with the inescapable fact that not a lot is widely known in the west about the place, makes for a fairly entertaining read as the author, his companion and two guides stay faithful to Greene's trek, hacking and plodding along this 350-mile path. This is a well-written account of an unusual adventure, even if the "killing fields" seem a long way away"--The Sunday Business Post

"Butcher's travelogue is a mix of nervous adventuring through a landscape littered with shell casings, and historical assessment peppered with Greeniana. Sobering and illuminating."--James Urquhart, Financial Times

"A multi-layered and thought-provoking account of the attractions of danger and his encounters with the devastation of ritual violence, child soldiers, blood diamonds and the "devil" guarding remote jungle communities."--Aimee Shalan, Guardian

Book Description

The bestselling author of Blood River is back with a second thrilling adventure, illuminating the war-torn, complex and forbidding region of Sierra Leone and Liberia

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 5 Sep 2010
Tim Butcher's latest book, Chasing the Devil: The Search for Africa's Fighting Spirit, paints an incredibly vivid and fascinating picture of a continent ravaged by war and violence. After reading his award-winning book Blood River, I couldn't wait to get my hands on Chasing the Devil. Just as Tim in 2004 followed H.M. Stanley's trail through the Congo for Blood River, for his new book, he follows a trail blazed by Graham Greene in 1935. The trek he documents in this book is both courageous and eye-opening. At a time when the world is being, once again, reminded of the atrocities of Charles Taylor's regime (thanks in huge part to Naomi Campbell sadly), Tim's book takes a look at two countries, Sierra Leone and Liberia, which after years of warfare have been left, in many rural places, lawless and unstable. Tim's account of his trip makes a brilliant read. He is an excellent writer and his years as a journalist covering foreign crises has made him a sympathetic and intelligent commentator. It is at once informative, funny and exciting, (the new light he throws on Graham Greene's trip is particulary interesting and often surprising). With his tales of Africa, you feel every blister, every prickle of fear and apprehension, and every feeling of personal achievement, as he embarks on a gruelling journey across two nations that not many of us would be brave enough to visit.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Devil Escapes the Detail 16 Nov 2011
By F Henwood TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Having just finished Blood River I graduated straight onto this book and wasn't disappointed. The author with a companion and two local guides trekked through three West African countries, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, following Graham and Barbara Greene's journey some seven decades' before. Again we have the same ingredients that made Blood River such a compelling read for me: a vivid description of the hardships of the journey, the lands he travels in and the people he meets along the way, combined with an illuminating discussion of the historical and political background.

The purpose of Greene's trip was probably an intelligence-gathering mission for the Anti-Slavery society. Liberia was a country set up by `returned' African slaves from the United States in the 19th Century. This didn't stop them from enslaving the native population, a practice systematically undertaken until the 1930s. The ending of slavery did not heal the settler/native divide, which formed the fault line of the recently concluded civil war. Sierra Leone had similar antecedents, initially set up as a coastal colony by the British, consisting of freed slaves, but Butcher doesn't treat the historical background for the conflict in Sierra Leone so well as he does for the war in Liberia. Guinea is barely offered any background at all.

So why did Butcher want to follow in Greene's footsteps? The publisher's blurb is somewhat misleading when it claims that the author walked into `a combat zone'. Acutally, two of these countries are now at peace (albeit a fragile one in Liberia) whereas a third, Guinea, has never known a civil war.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chasing the Devil 11 Dec 2010
It's hard to believe that Tim Butcher could come up with a better idea for a book than his journey in the Congo described in Blood River, but in Chasing the Devil, he has managed to not only carry out an amazing trek across one of the most dangerous parts of Africa, but to explore his subject in a depth that I don't think he found in his first book. His trip across Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia not only follows in the footsteps of a trip made by Graham Green and his cousin, Barbara in 1935, it explores current day life, politics and social issues in those countries. Like Greene, Butcher explores the challenges that West Africa faces on foot, in the bush, hearing from a wide variety of people on topics as varied as secret tribal societies (whose leadership cloak themselves in devil costumes) to saving chimpanzees from extinction in war torn Sierra Leone. While Butcher's quest is both personal and dangerous, throughout it he uses his formidable journalistic skills to open up one of the darkest parts of Africa through the words and actions of the people who live there. Ultimately, what shines out from them is that in spite of living through evil times and in the presence of true devils, an essential goodness remains which is a blessing for Butcher travelling through the bush as he, like Blanche Dubois in Streetcar ,is daily reliant on the goodness of strangers to survive and complete his journey.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
I have been fascinated by this book. I knew nothing of Graham Greene's expedition in Sierra Leone and Liberia in 1935. I found Tim Butcher's account of it to be very informative. Throughout his journey he refers to the Greenes' experience at the same point which gives the story a dual dimension and enables intriguing comparisons to be drawn. Although he travelled the route many years after the Greenes, the author often found himself feeling as they did in certain places, for example in Zigida, where both groups sensed an uncomfortable spookiness.

There was evidently huge effort involved in undertaking the trek and in progressing through it under trying conditions. Tim Butcher is very impressive. I admire his fitness and strength, as well as his determination in managing with the heat, dirt and fatigue. I was conscious throughout of his sweat and blisters, which he battled through admirably. It is a wonderful story of great endeavour, as was his "Blood River". In both he shows his great ability to cope. It is a remarkable achievement to have made the journey and also to have explained it so well to his readers.

I am grateful to understand more about what is still in many ways an unknown continent; when I was growing up West Africa was often referred to as the "White Man's grave". It was of real interest to me that the book showed the problem that affects much of Africa, whereby the nation states that were imposed during the 19th century by colonial powers led to a grouping of people that are not necessarily state orientated. It seems there are numerous small, remote and distinct communities throughout Africa that do not relate to one another or the broader concept of nationhood.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read
Yet another enjoyable book by Tim Butcher. I read this when I was out in Tanzania (read his previous book when I was in Uganda) and it helps to bring Aftica alive. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Traveller77
5.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting Read - Highly Recommended
An excellent read. I spent 2002/2003 working for the UN in Sierra Leone and ended up in Kailahun where the author crossed the border into Liberia. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Martin payne
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book great author
Excellent read. It brought to life West Africa, Graham Green and the quintessential English explorers of yesteryear. I heartily recommend Tim Butchers work.
Published 4 months ago by John
3.0 out of 5 stars Solid
This was by no means a bad book or anything however it didn't quite meet my expectations and was a bit of a let down. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Mad Geographer
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow
this is the perfect way to re-enjoy Graham Green's Journey without maps. Rather scary when you consider the previous war zone that this takes place in.
Published 11 months ago by Sukuma wiki
4.0 out of 5 stars Chasing the Greene
I, Melachi ibn Amillar, being of unsound mind and body, did read Tim Butcher's Chasing the Devil, on the beach in Cuba in April 2013, having previously read his book about the... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Melachi ibn Amillar
3.0 out of 5 stars fell flat
I enjoyed blood river and had expectations for this book, but this fell flat. There isn't much told in the book. Read more
Published 12 months ago by fergus
5.0 out of 5 stars Chasing Insights
Tim Butcher contributes to the renaissance of travel narratives that emulate stories of 19th and 20th century adventurers who set off into remote regions, reporting their tales... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Linda A. Moore
3.0 out of 5 stars A little flat at times
Though I learned a lot from this book, I found the numerous digressions slowed the pace and led to sections that were flat and a little disappointing. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Mr B.
3.0 out of 5 stars Focused on the Greenes more than it should have
I knew Tim Butcher from his previous book Blood River, which I liked a lot.
I had found it fascinating & the whole idea of it quite daring. Read more
Published 18 months ago by papas
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