Paperback of the week
Crazy River: A Plunge into Africa, Richard Grant, Abacus, £9.99
The extreme traveller Richard Grant was last seen battling Mexican drug barons in the Sierra Madre. In this new book he set out to travel the length of the Malagarasi River across Tanzania and Burundi – which no one appears to have done before, and with good reason.
Part roaring torrent, part clogged-up puddle, the river plays host to a range of rabid life forms, from biting insects through baleful crocodiles to trigger-happy poachers. Grant begins with a stint in dodgy nightclubs in Zanzibar. He closes in Rwanda, where he interviews the dictator-president who has, temporarily, transformed that country into a model of sobriety and economic growth.
Self-centred and opinionated, Grant is not an entirely trustworthy narrator, but he’s a terrific writer, offering a warts-and-all portrait of modern Africa, from the dependence on foreign aid to the murderous trade in albino body parts (human) and the rampant overgrazing that has decimated wildlife. David Attenborough it ain’t.