Press Release: The Lunatic Express by Carl Hoffman

“We think of travel as joy-seeking, the pursuit of pleasure, a vacation….As a journalist who frequently ended up in some of the world’s oddest corners and crevices, I gradually began to realize that the big numbers of today’s tourism industry obscured a parallel reality, excluded a whole river of people on the move. Excluded, in fact, most of the world’s travelers, for whom travel was still a punishing, unpredictable, and sometimes deadly work of travail.”—Carl Hoffman, The Lunatic Express



Discovering the World . . .via Its Most Dangerous Buses, Boats, Trains, and Planes


Carl Hoffman

*Winner of four Lowell Thomas Awards from the Society of American Travel Writers*



“This book is fabulous. The lean description, the weave of old and new perspectives, the personalities, the real-people wisdom, and that the danger is as real as we don’t want to think it is. The Lunatic Express is refreshing, liberating, and a paean to true travel.

—Keith Bellows, editor in chief of National Geographic Traveler


“Carl Hoffman has reinvented the travelogue as the supreme theater of paradox. He stands for humanity as a work in progress. Forget the inoculations. Disregard protection. Take this ride, and find the way to interconnectedness, verity and understanding.”

—Richard Bangs, producer and host of Adventures with Purpose



Indonesian Ferry Sinks. Peruvian Bus Plunges Off Cliff. Kenyan Train Attacked by Mobs. Whenever he picked up a newspaper, Carl Hoffman noticed those short news bulletins and was struck by how far removed the idea of tourism—travel as the pursuit of pleasure—is from the reality of most people’s experience. So off he went, spending five months circumnavigating the globe on the world’s worst conveyances—the statistically most dangerous airlines, the most crowded ferries, the slowest buses, and the deadliest trains—in order to understand what travel means to more than 99 percent of the world’s population because that’s all they can afford and there are no other options. Hoffman fittingly dubbed himself a “lunatic” and his journey “The Lunatic Express.”

Now, with THE LUNATIC EXPRESS: Discovering the World . . . via Its Most Dangerous Buses, Boats, Trains, and Planes (Broadway Books; March 16, 2010; Hardcover), Hoffman takes us along on his dicey adventures to some of the most teeming cities and remotest places on earth. We ride alongside Hoffman as he journeys:

From Havana to Bogotá on the perilous Cubana Airways. With a “fatal event rate” nearly twenty times higher than Southwest Airlines, Cubana has one of the worst safety records in the sky.

From Lima to the Amazon on crowded night buses navigating washed-out roads. The World Health Organization rates Latin American roads the most hazardous anywhere, with 1.2 million people a year killed in road accidents—nearly 3,000 a day.

Across Indonesia and Bangladesh on overcrowded ferries, which are responsible for the deaths of 1,000 passengers a year. Statistics show that more people die on ferries in Bangladesh than on ferries anywhere else in the world. Compare that to U.S. ferries where there were exactly zero fatalities between 1904 and 2003.

In Mumbai on commuter trains so packed that dozens perish daily. In April 2008, Mumbai’s Central and Western Railway released this staggering statistic: 20,706 fatalities on the trains and tracks during the last five years, making them the most dangerous conveyance on Earth.

Through Afghanistan on a bus as the Taliban closes in, where the threat of kidnapping, bombs, minefields, or gunfire is always just around the corner.

THE LUNATIC EXPRESS is an account of traveling with seatmates and deckmates who have left home without American Express cards, on conveyances that don’t take Visa, and seldom take you anywhere you’d want to go. It’s the story of traveling as it used to be, a sometimes harrowing trial, of finding adventure in a modern, rapidly urbanizing world and experiencing the generosity of poor strangers—from Papuan roughnecks playing homemade ukuleles in the steerage of an Indonesian ferry to vodka-guzzling Russian gangsters in Siberia—who make up most of the planet’s population. As he skirts the edges of disaster, Hoffman ponders the nature of family and human connection. More than a compelling chronicle of traveling where few vacationers dare to tread, THE LUNATIC EXPRESS is a funny, insightful look at the world as it is—a planet full of hundreds of millions of people, mostly poor, who are on the move and seeking their fortunes. 

CARL HOFFMAN is a contributing editor at National Geographic Traveler, Wired, and Popular Mechanics magazines. His stories about travel and technology have also appeared in Outside, Men’s Journal, and Smithsonian. He has won four Lowell Thomas Awards from the Society of American Travel Writers and once sailed a sixteen-foot open racing dingy 250 miles. His previous book is Hunting Warbirds: The Obsessive Quest for the Lost Aircraft of World War II. When he’s able to stay put for more than a few months at a time, he lives in Washington, D.C.


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Discovering the World . . . via Its Most Dangerous Buses, Boats, Trains, and Planes

By Carl Hoffman

Broadway Books; Hardcover; $24.99

On Sale: March 16, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-7679-2980-6


To schedule your interview with Carl Hoffman, please contact Ellen Folan in the Broadway Books publicity department at 212.782.8944 or  

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