Paradise of the Damned

The True Story of an Obsessive Quest for El Dorado, the Legendary City of Gold


By Keith Thomson

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$44.00 CAD

A “rollicking,” “vividly re-created,” and “enticing romp” that tells the true story of an obsessive quest to find El Dorado, set against the backdrop of Elizabethan political intrigue and a competition with Spanish conquistadors for the legendary city’s treasure, all in a “breezy tale starring an audacious hero" (Wall Street Journal)

As early as 1530, reports of El Dorado, a city of gold in the South American interior, beckoned to European explorers. Whether there was any truth to the stories remained to be seen, but the allure of unimaginable riches was enough to ensnare dozens of would-be heroes and glory hounds in the desperate hunt. Among them was Sir Walter Raleigh: ambitious courtier, confidant to Queen Elizabeth, and, before long, El Dorado fanatic.
Entering the Elizabethan court as an upstart from a family whose days of nobility were far behind them, Raleigh used his military acumen, good looks, and sheer audacity to scramble into the limelight. Yet that same swagger proved to be his undoing, as his secret marriage to a lady-in-waiting enraged Queen Elizabeth and landed him in the Tower of London. Between his ensuing grim prospects at court and his underlying lust for adventure, the legend of El Dorado became an unwavering siren song that hypnotized Raleigh.
On securing his release, he journeyed across an ocean to find the fabled city, gambling his painstakingly acquired wealth, hard-won domestic bliss, and his very life. What awaited him in the so-called New World were endless miles of hot, dense jungle packed with deadly flora and fauna, warring Spanish conquistadors and Indigenous civilizations, and other unforeseen dangers. Meanwhile, back at home, his multitude of rivals plotted his demise.
Paradise of the Damned, like Keith Thomson’s critically acclaimed Born to Be Hanged, brings this story to life in lush and captivating detail. The book charts Raleigh’s obsessive search for El Dorado—as well as the many doomed expeditions that preceded and accompanied his—providing not only an invaluable history but also a gripping narrative of traveling to the ends of the earth only to realize, too late, that what lies at home is the greatest treasure of all.

  • “An engaging chronicle . . . A breezy adventure tale starring an audacious hero.”
    Wall Street Journal
  • “Elizabethan-era English explorer Walter Raleigh’s quest for the mythical gold-filled city of El Dorado is vividly recreated in this rollicking account from bestseller Thomson . . . Thomson’s breezy and puckish narration makes the historical subject matter sizzle. Readers will relish this enticing romp through the Age of Exploration.”
    Publishers Weekly
  • "Thomson does a beautiful job of instilling terror into the reader in prose that is authoritative, smooth and effortless to read."
    Alabama Public Radio
  • "This absorbing account focuses on several attempts by Sir Walter Raleigh to locate a hidden city of gold in uncharted Guyana."
    AFAR Magazine
  • “A wonderful character study of people who think they are just one more mile from that last big score. The score they can retire on. The score which will make them immortal… Thomson has a hysterical way of infusing this dark story with witty asides which are always welcome.”
    History Nerds United
  • Praise for Born to Be Hanged:
  • "Thomson does a fine job mining the historical record for all this swash and buckle . . . A larger-than-life tale . . . It reads, quite literally, like a pirate novel."
    New York Times Book Review
  • “Unleashes an epic history of a band of ‘gentlemen pirates.’”
    Washington Post
  • “This swashbuckling history recounts a two-yearlong pirate raid in the 17th century along the Pacific coastline, with over 300 dastardly buccaneers in search of Spanish gold.”
    USA Today
  • “Thomson is an engaging and enthusiastic writer.”
    The Economist
  • “It’s hard to believe that serious maritime history could be quite so fascinating and outrageously readable. Born to Be Hanged is one of those books you simply can’t put down, a true history of a band of buccaneers who embark on a two-year rampage along the Pacific coasts of Central and South America, undertaking a series of daring, insane, and bloody raids that are at times so improbable as to defy belief. This is a truly marvelous read and I highly recommend it.”
    Douglas Preston, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Lost City of the Monkey God

On Sale
May 21, 2024
Page Count
400 pages

Keith Thomson

About the Author

Keith Thomson is the author of the nonfiction book Born to Be Hanged, as well as several novels, including Pirates of Pensacola and the New York Times bestseller Once a Spy. The former Columbia history major also writes nonfiction for the New York Times, Garden & Gun, and the Huffington Post on a range of topics, including national security and piracy. He lives in Birmingham, Alabama.

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