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Om White Headhunter
Shanghaied in San Francisco in 1868, teenage Scots sailor Jack Renton then found himself on a voyage into the heart of darkness. Escaping from his floating prison in an open whaleboat, Renton drifted for 2000 miles, only to be washed up on the shores of a Pacific island shunned by 19th-century mariners, Malaita in the Solomon Islands. There he was stripped of his clothes by headhunters and forced to 'go native' to survive. Initially a slave to their chief, Kabou, he eventually became the man's most trusted warrior and adviser. Renton's own account of his eight-year exile, published after he was rescued, remains the only authenticated account of a mental and physical ordeal that still haunts the imagination to this day. It caused a sensation at the time, though it is now clear that it airbrushed out most of the key events. Researching the Renton legend, Nigel Randell spent several years talking to the Malaitans and piecing together a very different account from Renton's sanitised version. The ultimate irony is that a man so keen to conceal his 'crimes' should have bequeathed their evidence - a necklace of 60 human teeth - to a collector who donated it to a national museum.
Nigel Randell's extraordinary first book . . . is an utterly compelling story, A grisly, fascinating and meticulously spun yarn. His telling of Renton's story . . . is brilliantly done,