This is an account of a journey into West Africa, a travel book, not a political thesis. Maugham's trip had a definite purpose: originally he wanted to visit the Trucial Coast of Arabia on the Persian Gulf to find out about the slave traffic but it was impossible for him to get a visa from the British Foreign Office. He and his companion then settled on another slave route into Saudi Arabia which led from the villages of West Africa to the Red Sea coast. Their journey covered a distance of 3000 miles from Dakar on the West coast to the ancient city of Timbuktu and was made on land, by rail and by river boat. Timbuktu lies on the southern fringe of the Sahara, where the caravans of the desert meet the canoes of the Niger River. It was once famous throughout the Moslem world as a center of trade and culture but now it has become ""a derelict city, drowning in a sea of sand"". Maugham proved that slavery does indeed exist in that part of the world and went so far as to buy a slave himself whom he later set free. Their trip was incredibly difficult but was the basis for Maugham's publicizing the problems of slavery when he returned to England. His book is written in the form of a diary and incorporates a great deal of material supplied by explorers who preceded Maugham. It's a fascinating and thought-provoking account. Robin Maugham has written numerous other travel books.