Skip to Main Content

About The Book

From the international bestselling author of KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON and THE LOST CITY OF Z, a mesmerising story of shipwreck, mutiny and murder, culminating in a court martial that reveals a shocking truth.

On 28th January 1742, a ramshackle vessel of patched-together wood and cloth washed up on the coast of Brazil. Inside were thirty emaciated men, barely alive, and they had an extraordinary tale to tell. They were survivors of His Majesty’s ship The Wager, a British vessel that had left England in 1740 on a secret mission during an imperial war with Spain. While chasing a Spanish treasure-filled galleon, The Wager was wrecked on a desolate island off the coast of Patagonia. The crew, marooned for months and facing starvation, built the flimsy craft and sailed for more than a hundred days, traversing 2,500 miles of storm-wracked seas. They were greeted as heroes.

Then, six months later, another, even more decrepit, craft landed on the coast of Chile. This boat contained just three castaways and they had a very different story to tell. The thirty sailors who landed in Brazil were not heroes – they were mutineers. The first group responded with counter-charges of their own, of a tyrannical and murderous captain and his henchmen. While stranded on the island the crew had fallen into anarchy, with warring factions fighting for dominion over the barren wilderness. As accusations of treachery and murder flew, the Admiralty convened a court martial to determine who was telling the truth. The stakes were life-and-death—for whomever the court found guilty could hang.

About The Author

Matt Richman

David Grann is the author of the Number One international bestsellers KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON, THE LOST CITY OF Z and THE WAGER. KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON was shortlisted for the CWA ALCS Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction and won an Edgar Allan Poe Award. He is also the author of THE WHITE DARKNESS and the collection THE DEVIL AND SHERLOCK HOLMES. Grann’s storytelling has garnered several honours including a George Polk Award. He lives with his wife and children in Westchester County, New York.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (May 17, 2023)
  • Length: 352 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781471183683

Raves and Reviews

'The beauty of The Wager unfurls like a great sail... one of the finest nonfiction books I’ve ever read. I can only offer the highest praise a writer can give: endless envy, as deep and salty as the sea'

– Matthew Teague, Guardian

‘Vivid, immediate and tantalising… Grann has a knack not just for telling a great story, but for bringing it to life through its characters… There are a great many books on British naval history; very few are this good’

– Sunday Times

‘Combining impeccable research with exceptional storytelling powers, [Grann] spirits the reader aboard a creaking wooden ship trapped at the eye of a howling storm… No book that you are likely to read this year or next will prove more dramatic and enthralling than Grann’s magnificent story of both life at sea and out on the desolate, mist-laden island whose solitary peak the Wager’s unfortunate crew aptly named Mount Misery’

– Miranda Seymour, Financial Times

'Grann combines a forensic eye with a storyteller's enthusiasm... [he] skilfully moves between several genres – giving us a tense court-martial drama to finish an unrelenting survival thriller'

– Sunday Telegraph

'This astonishing tale of maritime warfare, mutiny and survival in the 18th-century Atlantic proves that a nonfiction book can be as thrilling as any summer blockbuster'

– People

'The story of The Wager is, like many of its antecedents - from Homer's Odyssey to Mutiny on the Bounty - a testement to the depths of human depravity and the heights of human endurance, and you can't ask for better than that from a story... The Wager will keep you in its grip to its head-stratching, improbable end'

– The Los Angeles Times

A tour de force of narrative nonfiction, Mr. Grann’s account shows how storytelling, whether to judges or readers, can shape individual and national fortunes—as well as our collective memory... The Wager is likely to cast a powerful spell on modern readers as well’

– Wall Street Journal

'Those who love yarns involving cannon fire, sea-chests, plum duff and mainmasts will find The Wager riveting, as will those less intrigued by the age of sail. In the hands of David Grann, the story transcends its naval setting... [Grann] is a master of exciting tales in far-flung places. He has produced a volume so dramatic and engrossing that it may surpass his previous books'

– The Economist

'... one of the premier nonfiction storytellers of our time... Grann's masterful new book The Wager is at once an adventure on the high seas, a horror story and a courtroom drama - a little bit Rashomon meets Lord of the Flies'

– Rolling Stone

'Grann recreates the voyage in all its enthralling horror'

– New York Times Bestseller list, 'Editor's Choice'

'It's the kind of inspiring chronicle that would make for a rousing maritime adventure. But this is a David Grann book, and so he gives us something more... Their struggle for survival consumed them; reading about their struggle for survival intruged me - as Grann, the consummate narrative architect, must have known it would'

– The New York Times

'The Wager is unadorned, almost pure, horror-filled plot ... a tightly written, relentless, blow-by-blow account that is hard to put down'

– The Washington Post

'Bestseller Grann (Killers of the Flower Moon) delivers a concise and riveting account of the HMS Wager… Grann packs the narrative with fascinating details about life at sea—from scurvy-induced delirium to the mechanics of loading and firing a cannon—and makes excellent use of primary sources, including a firsthand account by 16-year-old midshipman John Byron, grandfather of the poet Lord Byron. Armchair adventurers will be enthralled'

– Publishers Weekly

'A genre-defying literary naval-history thriller, part Master and Commander, part Lord of the Flies'

– Vanity Fair

'David Grann is one of the very select club of writers: those who books of history are so diverting that they almost seem implausible. Their narrative constrictions are so effective, the dialogue so apposite, that jaded readers might think everything has been made up or twisted to give the books life, in novelistic fashion'

– Spectator

While the story of HMS Wager is well known, David Grann brings a distinctive and specialized approach to his treatment of it. He has carefully built his book on a firm knowledge of the published historical literature on the period and an extensive examination of the manuscript sources in a wide range of archives in England, Scotland, Australia and the United States. […] He has structured this book not as an analytical historian but as a mystery writer’

– Times Literary Supplement

Resources and Downloads

High Resolution Images

More books from this author: David Grann