An excerpt from Six Came Back, by David L. Brainard, in the Adrenaline Series Book, ICE.
May 20th. Ellis was buried at noon on Cemetery Ridge. We could scarcely find enough men with strength sufficient to haul his remains.....May 25th. My God! This life is horrible; will it never change? Seal skin thongs cut into small pieces were used in the stew this evening to eke out the scanty supply of shrimps. Small quantities of the skin were burned to a cinder on the fire and then ravenously devoured.....May 27th. Isreal, the youngest member of our party, passed away just after midnight. He died very easily and after losing consciousness which was about eleven hours before his death, he talked of food, restaurants, etc. His frankness, honesty and generosity had won the hearts of all. For lack of strength, we could not bury him today.....June 5th. Owing to the thievish propensity of Henry which has again broken out, it became necessary in order to insure the safety of the party for Lieut. Greely to issue an order to Long, Fredericks and myself to shoot him without delay, if detected in appropriating to his own use any articles of property.....June 15th. The sense of hunger appears to have disappeared. We eat simply to preserve life. Crumbs of bread at our winter quarter which are occasionally exposed through the melting of the snow are picked from heaps of the vilest filth and eaten with relish. Henry ate ptarmigan droppings; Bender ate caterpillars, worms, etc. Saxifrage, lichens and other vegetation together with the intestines of animals would now be luxuries.....June 18th. Connell complained of dimness of vision this evening on his return from gathering lichens. Biederbick, very inconsiderately, changed under-clothing throughout today. It now occurs to us that we have neither changed clothing nor bathed since we left Fort Conger last August--nearly eleven months!.....June 21st. A lichen stew for breakfast and a few pieces of boiled seal skin for supper. Connell worse. He says that his legs are useless below the knees. Since the day before yesterday, Elison has eaten his stew by having a spoon tied to the stump of his frozen arm.
Adrenaline Books: An Adventure in Publishing
The series title says it all: Adrenaline Books. Stories meant to get your juices flowing and the hairs on your neck standing up. A great idea turned into a book that, fueled by a trend, has become a wildly successful series.Adrenaline Books are adventure-writing anthologies, the result of a collaboration by a group of young New York writers and publishers.The first title in the series, Epic, was published in 1997, the brainchild of long-time adventure writer Clint Willis.
"I'm a climber, and had talked about doing an collection of great climbing stories, stuff that hadn't been anthologized," said Willis, who moved up to Portland, Maine from New York seven years ago to form the Writing Company, a group of young writers for hire. "We've tried to make the selections very representative, some from famous authors, others from unknowns. It required a lot of reading of literature new and old. The idea was to find the 15 best climbing pieces ever written."
"Then Into Thin Air and The Perfect Storm came out (both Krakauer and Junger are represented), and the momentum built up even further for this kind of book. We really felt our main goal was making these things a real pleasure to read, so we continued to prioritize the quality of the writing. Consumers know the difference between stuff that's been slapped together and real quality work. Sure, we were at the right place at the right time, but I like to think we were the right folks to do the job," says Willis.
Willis and company have been doing the job well, expanding the series to include two more climbing books, High and Climb, a polar exploration book entitled Ice, a wilderness adventure collection called Wild, and books on WWII, the American Civil War, and Wild Blue, survival stories from air and space.
Adrenaline, excitement, adventure, fame and fortune--at least that is the first impression. But delving into these books reveals a much deeper, underlying motif. In his introduction to Ice, Willis tries to find an answer to the age-old question of why we humans cannot resist testing ourselves against the awesome power of nature:
"But fame, money, even weather observations often seem little more than superb excuses for explorers to go where they hope to find something else entirely," he writes. "They don't know what it is until they arrive. But it is there, and it changes them."
"What exactly is it?"
"Barry Lopez in Artic Dreams hazards part of an answer: He observes the Peary and other explorers see their first trip north (or south) as a source of prestige, money or adulation. But that fades, writes Lopez:
'It is not that the land is simply beautiful but that it is powerful. Its power derives from the tension between its obvious beauty and its capacity to take life. Its power flows into the mind from a realization of how darkness and light are bound together within it, and the feeling this is the floor of creation.'
"Do they see God?" Adrenaline Books series editor Clint Willis
In Ice, and most likely all of the Adrenaline Series books, the reader may be surprised to find that there is much boredom involved in the long treks across Polar ice, bivouacs on mountainsides, and monotonous pounding of stormy seas. Not surprisingly, this seems to inspire some great writing. Describing the mental fortitude needed to ride out a week-long blizzard in a pup tent or drifting alone for 40 days in a life raft reveals interesting aspects of the human psyche.
In his introduction to Epic, Willis thanks the anthologized authors, alive and dead:
"I admire them all and I am grateful to them; their work has helped me to see the world more clearly. And I now have my answer to the question people ask mountaineers: These men climbóand writeóto be more fully themselves."
Willis points out that not only did the success of the Adrenaline series count on great writing but also great relationships. His friendship with Will Balliot of Balliot & Fitzgerald, the New York book packagers whose work for Thunder's Mouth, A&E, and USA Today has received wide acclaim led to a collaboration on Epic. In turn, Balliot's association with Thunder's Mouth, and their distributor Publishers Group West, led to the publishing and distribution arrangement that has made the books widely available. A audio rights deal with Listen & Live Audio has brought three of the titles to the audio market, with more to come.
"People are buying and enjoying the books, I think initially because they're interested in the topics," said Willis. "The side effect is that they are reviewing some truly great, forgotten literature in the process."