Among Insurgents: Walking Through Burma

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9780007127054: Among Insurgents: Walking Through Burma

An adventure story of real risk-taking and the heroic age of travel.

Ten years ago, at the age of 53, Shelby Tucker set out to cross Burma on foot from China to India when land access to Burma was forbidden. Tucker had a rucksack, a diary and some inaccurate maps. He recruited a 6ft 4in Swede, Mats, whom he had met on the train to Beijing.

Near the beginning of their walk through the jungle they encountered a group of naked boys bathing – they realized too late that their Chinese Army uniforms were on the banks. With typical sangfroid, Tucker leapt in to join them, shouting incomprehensible English greetings…
Before long they were in the hands of the Kachin Independence Army and managed to survive many near misses with the Burmese Army. Despite pain and constant danger, Tucker recorded each day the vivid beauty of the country, and the courtesy and hospitality of the Kachins (the most important of Burma's hidden colonies, about whom very little has been written).

Among Insurgents was Colin Thubron's Book of the Year, The Guardian's number 1 travel hardback and the Sunday Times' number 2. It recevied warm acclaim from Anthony Sattin ('packed with insights into tribal identity and the opium trade'), Robert Carver ('outstandingly well written in the insouciant Peter Fleming tradition'), Sara Wheeler ('a thrilling book') and it must surely be shortlised for the Thomas Cook Award.

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Review:

‘Every few years there comes along a first book by an unknown author that makes you want to stand up and applaud. This is such a book. This is a story of real, risk-taking, old-fashioned travel, not pre-paid by a publisher or faked by a television company. Beautifully written and illustrated with colour photos and maps, it deserves to become a classic.’ Maggie Gee, Daily Telegraph

‘Tucker’s adventure is a throwback to the heroic age of travel…endlessley fascinating and well informed on this little known region of Asia…outstandingly well written in the insouciant Peter Fleming tradition…the most unusual and distinguished travel book I have read for years.’ Robert Carver, Times Literary Supplement

‘I read it with growing amazement. What a journey and what a lot of research since! Very impressive!’ Robin Hanbury-Tenison

From the Publisher:

Reviews of AMONG INSURGENTS
"Tucker is an astute observer, a brave traveler and, undoubtedly, something of a nutter: who else would make provision to have his rucksack buried with him? He can be humorous too, as he was with the Indians who imprisoned him after he emerged from Burma. After his return, Tucker became involved with Burmese pressure groups and was accused of being a publicity-seeker. This is unjust, for his interest is in publicizing the plight of Burma, something he does with learning and humanity in this important account of a troubled nation. --Sunday Times (UK)

"Every few years there comes along a first book by an unknown author that makes you want to stand up and applaud. This is such a book. Driven by its author's love for a remote tract of the world and its peoples, it tells a tale of gripping heroism in a laconic, elegant style." This is a story of real, risk-taking, old-fashioned travel, not pre-paid by a publisher or faked by a television company. Beautifully written and illustrated with color photos and maps, it deserves to become a classic." --Maggie Gee, The Daily Telegraph (UK) "Surprise hardback top-seller at specialist travel bookshop Daunt's is Shelby Tucker's tale of a lunatic walk through Burma with Karen guerrillas. Reviewer Maggie Gee is among those who have proclaimed it a classic." --The Guardian (UK)

"Tucker...is...endlessly fascinating and well-informed on this little known region of Asia where the end of A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh elides surreally into Paul Theroux's Mosquito Coast. His book is also outstandingly well written in the insouciant Peter Fleming tradition. I did reflect, on finishing what is the most unusual and distinguished travel book I have read for years, that, single-handed, Shelby Tucker could have started the Vietnam War in an afternoon, if given the chance - and that he would probably regard that as some sort of compliment." --Robert Carver, The Times Literary Supplement (UK)

"Tucker is an astute observer, a brave traveler and, undoubtedly, something of a nutter: who else would make provision to have his rucksack buried with him? He can be humorous too, as he was with the Indians who imprisoned him after he emerged from Burma. The Indian authorities had difficulty believing his story, and understandably so. Nobody goes for a walk in a country ruled by one of the world's most repressive regimes." --Anthony Sattin, Sunday Times (UK)

"With humor and gusto, Among Insurgents charts in minute detail [an] extraordinary journey and all its hardships..., This is a fascinating insight into Burma, and essential reading for anyone interested in the rich past and uncertain future of this astonishingly beautiful and tormented place." --Traveller (UK)

"Among Insurgents: Walking Through Burma starts out as an adventure - a walk from China, through the Kachin hill country of northern Burma, to India, an assertion of the author and his companion's 'right to roam', taunted by Rangoon's closure of its land borders. Tucker, a lawyer, has addressed the US National Security Council on Burma and has acted as General Counsel for the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma. But he writes neither as a spy (as suspected by the Indian police) nor as an anthropologist. This book becomes, however, a serious exploration of Burma's troubles - the "hidden colony" of the Kachins, the Civil War and the international drugs trade." --The Telegraph, Calcutta

"The book throws light on a dark and complicated country Into the narrative of the journey itself is woven - in best travel book fashion - a literary and historical appreciation of Burma that is undoubtedly authoritative.' --Spectator (UK)

"Lunacy and bravery are two words that spring to mind with Among Insurgents: Walking Through Burma on Shelby Tucker's China-to-India trek, meeting Burmese hill tribes and being captured by Communist troops." --Wanderlust (UK)

"[An] extraordinary and exciting story provides an analysis of the aims and political maneuvers of the many anti-government elements in Burma representing Chins, Karens, Kachins, Nagas and the Communist Party of great interest to all who have followed the fortunes and turbulent times of the country over which we fought." --Frank Cook, Dekho! (UK)

"I read the book over the weekend and laughed my head off. What an addle-pated odyssey it is. The nonchalance with which he does things that could get him locked up in some bamboo cage for thirty or forty years takes my breath away. I've seldom been more aware of the thinness of the line between courage and lunacy. Luckily for his narrative, he is aware of it too, and has great fun jumping back and forth over it. I take my hat off to him, both for actually doing what he did and for writing so well about it." --Tobias Wolff

"I cannot recommend Among Insurgents highly enough. Shelby Tucker describes a quite extraordinary trek across the genuinely remote and dangerous mountainous north of Burma. His account gets to grips with an immensely complicated political scenario and is written in the classic manner. I was reminded quite often of Fitzroy MacLean and Peter Fleming." --Justin Wintle "To one familiar with the dangers inherent in such an enterprise, the story almost defies belief. A 53-year-old American teams up with a 22-year-old Swede, whom he has met on a train and known for less than an hour, with the aim of trekking across one of the most inaccessible and least explored areas on earth, in a country which, everyone recognizes, is ruled by a military autocracy and which has been engaged in a vicious civil war for nearly half a century." --Stephen Morse

"I read it in growing amazement. What a journey and what a lot of research since! Very impressive." --Robin Hanbury-Tenison

"I think [Shelby Tucker] may have written a classic of modern travel writing." --John McEnery

"Among Insurgents is a vastly impressive piece of work and life. Shelby Tucker may be a mad man, but he certainly writes wonderfully." --Peter Wolf

"I read it at one sitting, with my wife providing earthly sustenance at intervals, and thoroughly enjoyed the adventure. The vitality and freshness of the enterprise shone throughout." --Robert Pelletreau

"Those of us who would never go on such an adventure (and that's most of us!) can have something stirred within us, feel a little freer, more willing to take risks, after reading this book." --Fred Fenton

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