Part memoir, part travelogue, Tales From the Torrid Zone is rooted in his birthplace, the tiny tropical republic of Vanuatu where his father ran its hospital and his mother, in her front garden, built its first school. From this obscure South Seas group he ranges over the hot, wet, beautiful swathe of the world that has haunted him ever since dines with a tropical queen in a leper colony, makes his way across tropical Africa (and two civil wars) in a forty-four-year-old flying boat, delivers a new church bell to a remote Oceanian island and visits scores of countries to learn about their history, politics, medicine, flora and fauna (including the remarkable role of the coconut in tropical life). But, as becomes plain, the torrid zone is not just a geographical phenomenon, its also a state of mind. The result is a witty, entertaining and immensely readable book from a fine storyteller.

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