Roland the headless Thompson gunner*
Even though we are about to leave for Brazil, I have recently finished reading 4 books about the Congo. All are good, two especially so.
1. King Leopold's Ghost.
Excellent book about Leopold, Stanley, the operations of the "Congo Free State" and the people who tried to expose it. Highly recommended.
2. Chief of Station, Congo: Fighting the cold war in a hot zone.
Interesting account of the events around independence, the murder of Lumumba and the rise of Mobutu. Marred however, by the author's repeated attempts to portray himself as a combination of Gary Cooper, Jackie Chan, & Jesus.
3. In the footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Living on the brink of disaster in Mobutu's Congo.
Documents, on the macro level, the corruption machine that was Mobutu. Tries to do Kremlinology, Congo style, on his courtiers and family. The whole Mr. Kurtz tie in was strained as was the tact of starting at the end before jumping back to the beginning. I struggled a bit to finish this one. I did like very much the idea that the reign of Leopold paved the way for the reign of Mobutu that the author argues for passionately.
4. Facing the Congo.
First person account of an American's quest to descend the Congo river on a pirogue "solo" (quotes because he ends up with a guide and a soldier). This was my favorite of the bunch. It puts you inside what Leopold + Mobutu had created in the Congo and doesn't let you out. The book puts in the human side that book #3 really glosses over.
Probably best read last if you are going to read any of the others. Gets Angus's highest recommendation.
*(he killed to earn a living and to help out the Congolese)