Headhunters on My Doorstep: A True Treasure Island Ghost Story By J. Maarten Troost

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    Let's get the worst part out of the way: This is a good book with a bad title. Actually, the title is fine, it just has very little to do with this book. The Headhunters on My Doorstep is taken from a quote by Robert Louis Stevenson, in whose footsteps J. Maarten Troost follows during the course of this book, and it works, but the subtitle was completely misleading. Had it been something along the lines of Coming to terms with my own addictions by voyaging through the South Seas Islands, readers might have been more prepared for what they got.

    Having said that, I loved the book. Troost is an excellent writer, and if he's not the same, charismatic, slightly neurotic, freewheeling twenty-something he was in his first two travelogues, well, who amongst us is? Instead, we find a more weathered, scarred author telling us about the islands, yes, and about the life of Robert Louis Stevenson, true, but also telling us far more about addiction and how his had crept up on him and how he was coming to terms with it. All of which is very compelling.

    For anyone looking for a direct sequel to The Sex Lives of Cannibals and Getting Stoned With Savages, you may be in for a disappointment. This is not that book. For someone looking for an honest look at alcoholism with a few side trips into the life of an acclaimed author (RLS) and the ecological and economic crisis facing the island nations, you might find that this is a good read. Hardcover Headhunters on my Doorstep has an unfortunate and misleading subtitle: A True Treasure Island Ghost Story. The only ghost story here is the Alcoholic Troost haunting the sober Troost with passing mentions of Robert Louis Stevenson and his fixated jealousy on RLS's lifestyle.

    Being familiar with the South Pacific, having lived there for several years, and having a great interest in the cultures beyond the overly romanticized travel logs of the early explorers, I also know that there is a paucity of good recent literature about the South Pacific. This book does nothing to fill that void. For engaging and thought provoking travel literature pick up Shark Gods by Charles Montgomery or better yet We Are the Ocean by Epeli Hau'Ofa.

    Hardcover <Rewritten 29/6/18, warning it's a bit of a rant now. Unlike some of Troost's books which I have enjoyed very much I absolutely loathed this one and dnf'd it quite late, two-thirds of the way in. It really wasn't about his travels in the South Seas, there were no headhunters on his doorstep or anywhere else. It was about his alcoholism and giving up the booze with sundry elements thrown in. The biographies of Gaugin and Robert Louis Stevenson were a lot less than revelatory and enthralling. The jaded eye on the rich travelling Polynesia was just so fake - this man had been a banker and was travelling as a tourist himself!

    The book droned on and on, Troost so unbelievably self-absorbed and full of hate for modern society and praise for primitive pig hunters that I thought yes, when you do go to where the yachties gather and start to relate your tales they probably think you are one of them, not realising they are just more fodder for his inner hate machine. About the only non-third worlders he doesn't despise are Muslims whom he thinks get a raw deal travelling a world where they are not welcomed anywhere. Eh? Where does he get that from? We aren't all stupid and think that everyone called Mohammed is a terrorist as he implies.

    What finally did it was his anti-semitism. He must have thought he did it quite cleverly. First of all he says the French are anti-semitic and they have no grounds for that at all, it's so terrible. Then through the device of a man he meets says that all the Jews are after in Polynesia is gold. Notice, all the French and all the Jews. No no, says Troost, this is not true, the couple in the next room are Israelis, the man is a medical botanist.

    On his next encounter with the Israeli the man asks to buy his watch, then his wedding ring, he wants the gold! He says he travels through the islands with his hot wife (another stereotype here, dark-eyed Jewish women are hot), going from village to village to buy gold from these stupid people and then reselling it at a profit in Tel Aviv. Thereby confirming exactly the Frenchman's stories. Yes these Jews are all about gold ad ripping people off.

    Does it even sound true? Do you think he even met such unnamed people? Are the French anti-semitic (as a nation, no of course not). Can you imagine someone going up to an American asking to buy their wedding ring and watch and then telling him about stupid people who do sell them?

    Even in Troost's first book, The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific his view of local islanders was that they were the salt of the earth, really really wonderful incredibly primitive people who lived happy savage lives. But those of them who moved to the towns were without any sophistication or desire to improve themselves living in utter squalor and cared not about education or the benefits of a first world life and have only degraded local customs and traditions. So here he continues, he's not stupid enough to part with his wedding ring, and only a Jew/Israeli would be venal enough to presume he would, unlike the islanders.

    I live on a small third world island. It isn't poor to be true, but there are a lot of poor people here up from the much less advanced islands. They are here to earn money to send back, so that their kids can be educated, so that they can build a proper house instead of a tin shack, so that they can get electricity from the company rather than a hook-up from a pole. And ultimately so that they can get a Green Card, go to the US, get a job and themselves an education. Would they sell the gold they have, sometimes a chain? Maybe. Would they sell a watch (like they own gold watches?), what about a wedding ring? Not a chance. Are these people likely to be different from Pacific Islanders, I think not.

    Where do you think all of us came from? We all came from poverty originally but the hard work of our ancestors, distant or (in my case, my family were Russian peasants until the 1920s) not so distant has enabled us to climb the ladder from no indoor sanitation to university degrees.

    Troost isn't as clever as P. J. O' Rourke or Paul Theroux with their often-jaded view of travel, probably because these authors don't have favourites and those they hate, they just generally get in a bad mood when they travel and write from that angle. But Troost, originally Dutch, a very welcoming and liberal nation - apart from the Boers who left and did all that shit in South Africa, sees life through a smaller lens, categorising people according to his prejudices and then writing about them in his sometimes humorous way.

    This wasn't humorous, it was boring when it was about his struggles with the bottle. It made him sound pseud when he was going on about how life on a continent was one of the causes of his alcoholism - he needs to be in the islands. His fillers of biography were Wikipedia expanded but it was the prejudice that did it eventually. I felt he was trying to persuade (don't all racists?) and I'd had enough.

    Not recommended. Hardcover This is possibly the hardest book review I have ever written. Maarten's 'Sex Lives of Cannibals' is in my personal top 5 favorite books of all time. That books has such heart and comedic timing unlike almost any other, never had I laughed so loud or hard from a book, and it also taught and drew me in as the reader completely. His books after that subsequently declined with each one and so did the number of laughs and engaging nature.

    That brings us to this title, which was tremendously crushing to the point that I had to force myself to even read it through. It is a mess, no aim, no point, not much of anything. We learn that the author has been battling alcoholism in his real life but that is about it, and even that is dealt with in a strange and incomplete and continual way. He has lost his way in life and it translates into his writing. His relationship to his wife and children is hard to ascertain, it is impossible to sympathize with him, he now has an addiction to addiction which manifests itself mostly in running which is also not conveyed in any meaningful way, he seems to think he is above standard touristy fare but seems to gravitate to it on his useless adventure which is told here. There is nothing for me to praise here. Nothing. It is a disaster and really just sad, not because of the words on the page either but because of the lack of those words to accomplish anything. Addiction is sad and to watch such a talent steadily decline to the point of this book is even worse.

    I wish him well personally, I hate to have to offer such a low review, I can clearly tell he has and is struggling, but this is not anywhere near a book that any publisher should have sent to print. Truly a shame. Hardcover You've heard of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde the book, right? Well, meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde the author. I've enjoyed Mr. Troost's previous books about his humorous experiences in the South Pacific. Evidently, this is his first book after recovery from his alcoholism (which I did not know about). Don't get me wrong, this is a great feat and I am happy for him and his family and do not discount in any manner how worthy this achievement is. However, his self-depricating attempt at humor about this illness was not something I expected when I picked up this book. The chapters that go on about his alcoholism as compared to those with limited references to the topic are as different as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

    I'm certain that this book served as a cathartic exercise for him and I am willing to give him a pass on this one. However, I choose to read his books for the humor and the awe of the South Pacific. This book had little of that and ended up as simply sad. Hardcover

    Readers and critics alike adore J. Maarten Troost for his signature wry and witty take on the adventure memoir. Hailed by as a “funny, candid, and down-to-earth travel companion,” Troost’s bestselling debut, , is an enduring favorite about life in the South Seas.
    chronicles Troost’s return to the South Pacific after his struggle with alcoholism and time in rehab left him numb to life. Deciding to retrace the path once traveled by the author of , Troost follows Robert Louis Stevenson to the Marquesas, the Tuamotus, Tahiti, the Gilberts, and Samoa, tumbling from one comic misadventure to another as he confronts his newfound sobriety.
    Somewhere en route from the shark-infested waters of Fakarava to the remote islands of Kiribati, Troost gradually awakens to the beauty of life and reconnects with his family and the world.  is a funny yet poignant account of one man’s journey to find himself that will captivate travel writing aficionados, Robert Louis Stevenson fans, and anyone who has ever lost his way.
      Headhunters on My Doorstep: A True Treasure Island Ghost Story


    This was an ok read, but is easily the worst of Troost's books. The hook of following Stevenson's trip through the South Sea did nothing for me and this really lacked the charm of his previous works. In all honesty you can safely skip this, even big Troost fans. Hardcover Meh, 2 stars, but dangerously close to 1.5 stars.

    The biggest complaint I've seen (and agree with) about this book is that the description is extremely misleading. It is touted as the author's journey to many different islands while following Robert Louis Stevenson's path. In actuality, it is about 5% Robert Louis Stevenson, 10% island travels, and 85% tales of the author's addiction to alcohol.

    The book was not completely and utterly awful for what it was, but I probably wouldn't have read it if the description had been honest. I was looking for more of a fun, comical island travelogue.

    The author is not very relatable or likeable, either. When coming fresh out of rehab and talking about wanting to be a better husband/father, why would the answer be to spend godawful amounts of money to travel across the world ALONE, away from your family, with constant temptation?

    I could even see his aspect if it was for solitary alone-time to find himself, but it was more touristy, filled with constant yearnings for posh bars on cruise ships and lusting after every fit female of age he encounters. If I were his wife, I'd be pretty damn pissed after reading this.

    I basically skimmed most of it and I don't feel like I missed anything at all. I won't be reading anything else by this author. Hardcover Troost's prose style has changed since his first, and quite excellent, travel memoir that made me think he was going to be the next Bill Bryson--with a deft combination of humor, personal narrative, and travel. This book would be more accurately labeled: My Addiction and Me, With a Side Helping of Travel, But With All Points Leading Back to My Alcoholism.

    Which is obviously fine if I'd had the chance to adjust my expectations ahead of time, but not what I had signed up for when reading his new book. As a bookseller, I'm more inclined to put this with the addiction memoirs than the travel ones.

    My full review can be found on my blog: http://asthecrowefliesandreads.blogsp... Hardcover The good thing about the author's previous pacific island books was that he lived there and had the time to develop some real insights. This time he was just a tourist, and the only insights were about himself. Here's what reading the first 9 chapters felt like: I'm a recovering alcoholic, me me me me. I'm now in the Marquesas. me me me me. Gaugin lived here, and was an alcoholic. me me me. Did I mention I'm an alcoholic? me me me me. Oh, and as an afterthought, the Marquesas are lovely. My reaction: snore. Hardcover This book features Troost's sharp wit and I laughed out loud on more than one occasion, but it lacked an overall cohesive theme. Troost spent much time ruminating on his alcohol addiction, visited some random islands, and occassionally tied in Robert Louis Stevenson. It was amusing, but was ultimately unfulfilling. Hardcover