Doug Preston, author, "The Lost City of the Monkey King"
Air Dates: January 14-16, 2017
“Douglas Preston is one of the most adventurous figures in American letters today. Inured to personal danger, braving venomous snakes and lethal pathogens, he somehow gets it all, the science, the history, the intrigues, the obsessive characters, the electric moment of discovery, and the haunted cries of the once powerful civilization. Preston’s marvelous story is made all the more potent by the astonishing fact that from the beginning to the end, it happens to be true!”-- Hampton Sides, NY Times Best-Selling author, “Blood and Thunder”
This week's guest on REPORT FROM SANTA FE is Doug Preston, a New York Times best-selling author, who discusses his new book "The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story," and describes his expedition with National Geographic explorers in the dangerous, dense tropical jungles of Honduras.
In 2012, he climbed aboard a rickety, single-engine plane carrying the machine that would change everything: LIDAR (short for light detection and ranging), a cutting-edge mapping technology that could map the terrain under the densest rainforest canopy. In an unexplored valley, ringed by steep mountains, that flight revealed the unmistakable image of a sprawling metropolis, tantalizing evidence of not just an undiscovered city, but an enigmatic, lost civilization.
Venturing into this raw, treacherous, but breathtakingly beautiful wilderness to confirm the discovery, Preston and the team battled torrential rains, quickmud, disease-carrying insects, jaguars, and deadly snakes. But it wasn't until they returned that tragedy struck: Preston and others found that in the ruins they had contracted a horrifying, sometimes lethal-and incurable-disease. In all, it was contracted by over 25 expedition members, some of whom continue to be treated at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Preston explores reasons for the inhabitants of the Lost City of the Monkey God to abandon it, and suggests that diseases and pandemics devastated the city. He traces the history of Old World diseases in the New World, and notes that between 1518 and 1550, 90% of the native population of Honduras died of disease. Preston looks at Leishmaniasis, the disease that struck him and his expedition, and reveals the northward progress into the United States of this and many other tropical diseases such as Zika, Dengue Fever, and H1 N1, as our climate changes.
Preston quotes a poem presenting the Native American point of view from a Mayan Indian eyewitness to the inferno of contagion in the New World: “There was then no sickness. They had no aching bones. They then had no high fever, they then had no smallpox, no stomach pains, no consumption. At that time the people stood erect. But then the teules, the foreigners arrived and everything fell apart. They brought fear and they came to wither the flowers.”
Although most well-known for his collaborations with Lincoln Child (including the Agent Pendergast series and Gideon Crew series), Preston has also written six solo novels, primarily including the Wyman Ford series. He also has authored a number of non-fiction books on history, science, exploration, and true crime, such as “Cities of Gold: A Journey Across the American Southwest” and “The Monster of Florence.”
QUOTE: “Not only is this book fast-paced and riveting, but it is also important. We mustn’t repeat the cataclysmic mistakes of the past. Ironically, as the lost city illustrates, that’s exactly what our short-sighted civilization is doing right now. You have got the thrill and the adventure and the really wise alert, a warning to pay attention to the progress of civilizations and the dance of disease between worlds.” -- James Patterson, renowned best-selling author