This compendious celebration of ineptitude includes some of history's most spectacularly ill-conceived expeditions and entirely useless pursuits, and features tales of black comedy, insane foolhardiness, breathtaking stupidity and relentless perseverance in the face of inevitable defeat. It rejoices in men and women made of the Wrong Stuff: writers who believed in the power of words, but could never quite find the rights ones; artists and performers who indulged their creative impulse with a passion, if not a sense of the ridiculous, an eye for perspective or the ability to hold down a tune; scientists and businessmen who never quite managed to quit while they were ahead; and sportsmen who seemed to manage always to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Like Walter Oudney, one of three men chosen to find the source of the River Niger in Africa, who could not ride a horse, nor speak any foreign languages and who had never travelled more than 30 miles beyond his native Edinburgh; or the explorer-priest Michel Alexandre de Baize, who set off to explore the African continent from east to west equipped with 24 umbrellas, some fireworks, two suits of armor, and a portable organ; or the Scottish army which decided to invade England in 1349 - during the Black Death.
Entries include: briefest career in dentistry; least successful bonding exercise; most futile attempt to find a lost tribe; most pointless lines of research by someone who should have known better; least successful celebrity endorsement; least convincing excuse for a war; worst poetic tribute to a root vegetable; least successful display of impartiality by a juror; Devon Loch - sporting metaphor for blowing un unblowable lead; least dignified exit from office by a French president; and least successful expedition by camel.
Karl Shaw has worked as a journalist, in advertising and in marketing. His books include New York Times bestsellers Royal Babylon: The Alarming History of European Royalty and 5 People Who Died During Sex: and 100 Other Terribly Tasteless Lists.