Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Paperback reprint just out "In the Footsteps of Marco Polo"

In the Footsteps of Marco Polo Paperback – March 1, 2015

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The harrowing route of Marco Polo's 13th-century trek from Venice to ancient Cathay over the traditional Silk Road to Kublai Khan's territories consumed 24 years of the famous explorer's life. Award-winning photographer Belliveau and sculptor/lecturer O'Donnell, a former marine, spent two years retracing the journey,, to [t]raverse the world's largest land mass and back, climb its highest mountains, cross its most desolate deserts and seas. The curious, intrepid risk-takers forgo air travel to recreate the 25,000-mile experience, facing rolls of red tape, internecine politics, horrendous climates, language barriers, civil war and border authorities while traveling through what is now Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Tibet, China and Mongolia, among others. The authors have a remarkable ability to form relationships in varied cultures, as with a group of rough Afghan soldiers: All had in common... losses so terrible that we had stopped asking questions about families. Fascinatingly, many of the customs, locales and physical landscapes are identical, 700 years later, to Polo's descriptions. Alongside Belliveau and O'Donnell's enthusiastic narrative are marvelous full-color photos that bring the travelogue to vivid life. (Dec.) 
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School—Following in the footsteps of arguably the greatest traveler in history is no easy task. In accessible, lively text, and with more than 200 striking photographs, Belliveau and O'Donnell make the enormity of the task abundantly clear. The determined explorers follow the long and arduous route Marco Polo took more than 700 years ago, becoming the first to retrace the entire distance on land and sea. The dangers were many: sand storms in the Taklamakan desert, subzero temperatures in the mountain passes of Tajikistan, horribly rough seas off the coast of Sumatra, and suspicious, gun-wielding soldiers at nearly every border and everywhere in Afghanistan. Marco Polo faced many of these same obstacles, but one he did not have to confront was the ridiculous complexity of postmodern bureaucracy. The greatest roadblock to the success of the authors' expedition proved to be the red tape and outright hostility involved in securing visas for travel in Afghanistan, China, India, and especially Iran. The two Americans resorted to some clever, and dangerous, maneuvers to sidestep overly zealous (and gun-toting) officials. In the end, their persistence was well worth the effort. Like Marco Polo in the 13th century, Belliveau and O'Donnell in 1994–'95 witnessed amazing sights, met wonderfully gracious and helpful people, and learned countless valuable lessons. This lavish travelogue in the grand tradition of exotic exploration should find a place in all collections.—Robert Saunderson, formerly at Berkeley Public Library, CA 

This is what Francis O'Donnell recently wrote about this reissue:

To Celebrate the reissuing of our Book , a little behind the scenes, to see what it took ! 

It took us years to bring it to fruition. Years of heartache and struggle mixed with moments of transcendent triumph and glory. Having been successful in retracing the entire route of Marco Polo's legendary Silkroad journey, we came home to an America where O.J Simpson , Timothy McViegh and the Atlanta Olympic park bombing reigned.  
We had timed the arrival of our expedition's return in Venice, with the 700 anniversary of Polo's own return, 1295 - 1995 . In honor of this, we named our odyssey  “ The Return to Venice , the 700 anniversary expedition.” We arrived in Venice in March of 1995 and were greeted with the fanfare reserved for heads of state, Kings and Queens and other high dignitaries. A reception that the Polo's themselves didn't not receive ! 

We all know the legend of their not being recognized by friends and family, dressed in the garb of Tartars, they had all but lost the ability to speak their native tongue. It is only when they cut open the lining of their cloaks and a river of gems flowed forth that they were finally believed. We on the other hand were given a royal regatta of gondolas and rowed down the grand canal to St. Marks square, there the bell of the basilica were rung in our honor. We were greeted by the mayor and a committee of other city officials, a banquet was held in our honor, photo's of our journey went on display in a galley in St. Marks plaza. We , in short were greeted as returning heroes, the toast of the town, given the keys to the city as it were, our effort highlighted in the local and state news media. 

If we were smart we would have stayed put, in Venice, there in Italy, as they understood and appreciated our accomplishment. Everywhere we walked through his home city, people call out “ Ciao Marco Polo “ in our direction. Returning home was more then culture shock, it was a rude awaking to the crass , ugly and foul underbelly of our society. 
Without being to esoteric, I was flying high on life, I envisioned myself like the incarnation of the lord Shiva, Nataraja doing the cosmic dance of the universe. Now exposed, to the Zenith of popular television culture, I was horrified at how low and debase it was, shows like Jerry Springer and others ruled the day. 

No one cared to learn or know about what we had done, seen or discovered. Like the Polo's we were mostly ignored in our own country. What ensued was a 13 years roller coaster ride, Denis and I were courted, lied to, and had smoke blown up our keisters by some of the biggest and best, the list is a who's who of media elites. 
They told us we were the greatest thing since sliced bread and then waylaid and delayed us from properly sharing our story for years and years. We were under contract with William Morris, one of the worlds biggest talent and publicity agency's, they let us flounder. As we were small fish in a big sea. ( excuse the pun ) Harry Abrams one of the finest book publishers, wanted our story and strung us along , as did Barnes and Noble itself , who drove us around in limousines and threw for us fancy brunches. 
We had a deal with a Hollywood production company, that fell through, you get the idea , and this is a very condensed list. 

In the mean time life goes on, in the struggle to get by. However we always believed we had something of value to share. I can't tell you how many times we found, we were ahead of the curve. Knowing that we never gave up. Please refer back to my last piece posted here in MongolsChinaSilkroad  on January 12th 2015 , in a reply to “ Marco Polo's  Guide to Afghanistan “ and that of two days early called “ One of the first western travellers to cross the Wakhan Corridor “. There I explain how things began to change after 9/11. 

Finally many years later technology became our friend and opened up the world for filmmakers and story tellers. What had been a closed club and exorbitantly expensive was now possible. 
With a Mac computer and final Cut Pro we were able to sit down with an editor friend and make , what we call “ The Directors version “ of “ In the footsteps of Marco Polo “ we worked on it for over a year and it is a thing of beauty, in it we detail the findings of our journey. 

To retrace Polo's entire journey was not our only mission, as if it were not enough. No, our self appointed task was to every single day take Marco's book, which we called “ The Bible “ we used it as our guide, seeking out the things he describe, and documenting them. 
This is the content of that first film, it debut in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2007, at that time we invited, all the big player, the History channel, Discovery channel etc … several of these major entities showed interest and again we were courted. 

In the end we went with the least lucrative but most obvious and to our minds best choice. We knew that PBS had the most discerning audience for our type of content. I had grown up watching WNET 13 in NYC my whole life, now in partnership with them and their sister station WLIW 21 in Long Island NY we would produce our documentary. 
Our first attempt they loved and respected, but to their credit saw the film differently, earning us an Emmy nomination, which I believe we would have won on another year, if not for Emmy internal politics, but that is yet another story. 
Marco was our hero, in our “ Directors cut “ it was hard to stick our chests out, but in a sublime way we become Marco Polo, via osmosis, appearing when either the narrator or quotes from his book filled the screen. The PBS version, which streams on line and can now be purchased as of 2012 takes a different tack. 
It is a retrospective and I must say a very endearing look back, at an adventure relived by to old friends, who against all odds had achieved what most others said and thought was impossible. 
As hard as it is to believe , twenty years have gone by in a blink. Both our film and the Companion book are entitled “ In the footsteps of Marco Polo “ the book was published by Rowman and Littlefield .

After their release in late in the year 1998, Denis and I travel around the country together for about a year and a half , giving presentations and promoting the book . We did so at colleges, schools, Universities and library's and organizations. Like struggling rock stars on the road no venues was to small to share our story, several times to only a handful, at others more then a thousand. 
Although the applause is louder in those big events, the intimate gathering were no less meaningful to us. Our joy and reward came from finally being able to share and inspire. There is nothing in the world better than to in some small way change the life of another. 

I can't tell how many times we have heard that. That became our gems, our riches and we still clutch them tightly, not in the lining of our clothes but our souls. 
Throughout the journey and over the subsequent years of tribulation there often were times when it would have been easy to give up, and others when we even considered it. 
We couldn't, it was an impossibility, for many reasons to long to list here, but most importantly we felt a responsibility, not only to the quest, but to all of those who had helped and believe in us. 
We could not let everyone down. So an outward journey changed and morphed, it was no longer predominately about us, but became more about others, the friends we made along the way.  
“ In the footsteps of Marco Polo “  had become to big and had taken on a life of it's own, it is still changing and growing today. The journey is not over and in many ways the adventure is just beginning. 
To that end I am happy to announce our book is being reissued in a “ Soft ” cover version as of March 12th  2015 ! 
Enjoy and remember, “ There is always more to Explore !”

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