Imagine a bottomless pit worthy of an Indiana Jones adventure, "overflowing with snakes, plaits of snakes spilling on to the shiny floor to untangle themselves and slither numberless down long corridors..." This is how Jeremy Seal remembers his first time at the reptile house of his local zoo, an experience that left him so rattled he is still trying to confront his phobia 30 years later.
THE SNAKEBITE SURVIVORS' CLUB is the outcome of the author's journey of self-discovery into the realms of the oft-feared and occasionally revered serpent. Traveling to Africa, Australia, India, and the American Deep South, the British Mr. Seal writes about the unusual people who live with, make their livings from, or even worship the most venomous of snakes --- seeking out particularly those who have been snakebitten and who, against all odds, have lived to tell the grisly tale.
Not for the faint of heart, this book chronicles the experiences of snake wranglers in Australia and Africa, snake charmers in India, and religiously ecstatic snake handlers in America, one of whom tried to murder his wife in 1991 by forcing her to place her hand into a cage of rattlesnakes.
Fact-filled though it is --- did you know that nearly 10,000 people die from snakebites every year in India? or that the black mamba of Africa has been clocked at a speed of approximately seven miles per hour? or that Australia harbors "20 of the world's 23 most venomous species, and all of the 10 most venomous?" --- the most compelling feature of THE SNAKEBITE SURVIVORS' CLUB is its ability to mesmerize even as it repels, much like snakes themselves. This indeed is the heart of the author's own morbid fascination with the reptiles he so fears and it makes for a fascinating, entertaining and uncommon read.
Reviewed by Jami Edwards on January 23, 1999