I was positively mad about this book when I was in sixth grade. My wife knew that, because I had mentioned it occasionally, during rambles down Memory Lane. So she got it for me for Valentine’s Day.
Roy Chapman Andrews–the first to find dinosaur eggs: explorer, museum director, writer of books that ignited the imagination–was one of my childhood heroes. Quest in the Desert was his only foray into what we nowadays call Young Adult fiction. Having read much of his non-fiction, I can see that a lot of the material in the novel comes from his actual experiences in exploring the Gobi Desert and knocking around Mongolia. No way that’s bad! Andrews had adventures in some pretty wild and woolly places, and knew how to write about them.
As a glorious additional attraction, the book is illustrated by the great Kurt Wiese, who illustrated all the Freddy the Pig books (by Walter R. Brooks). Wow!
China, Mongolia, and the Gobi Desert in the 1920s were not places for the faint-hearted. Andrews loved the people and the land, and as an explorer of the Amundsen school, he always went into the desert well-prepared. He once remarked that for an explorer to have “adventures”usually meant that the explorer didn’t know his business. He did have plenty of adventures, but nothing his expedition was unprepared to handle.
The climax of Quest in the Desert is, of course, purely fictional–the discovery of the long-lost tomb of Genghis Khan (still undiscovered to this day). If you can’t get excited over that, you may need an autopsy.
What a totally wonderful time I’m going to have, reading this again!
P.S.–My Valentine’s gift to Patty was Unnatural Death, one of Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries: great stuff.
I can’t imagine a life without books, and I don’t want to try.