Imagine spending thirteen years fighting and travelling in disguise in the deserts of Inner Asia, then another thirteen years as an officer in the Sikh army. Suppose, too, that while 'long separated from the world' you had acquired a reputation for conduct utterly unacceptable in civilised society. Many would reckon you a scoundrel and liar, despite your protests. Lively reminiscences - such as saving the city of Lahore in 1841 by singlehandedly killing 300 invaders - and numerous scars would not impress them.Gardner's story, like Marco Polo's, changed people's understanding of the world. The urge to contest or authenticate his account contributed to the scientific and political penetration of a vast chunk of Asia. Readers will see the whole region, from the Caspian to Tibet, in a new light and gain a fresh perspective on its last years under native rule.Keay's credentials for writing the biography of Gardner are unrivalled.
'Minutely researched, wittily written and beautifully produced, it is one of John Keay's most memorable achievements' The Spectator'Enthralling... The Tartan Turban is as illuminating as it is irresistible' TLS'Elegant... brilliantly lucid... gripping... John Keay's biography restores him to the place in history that he should justly hold' The Literary Review
Keay's narrative histories of India, China and the East India Company are widely regarded as standard works. His India: A History has sold over 200,000 copies and the 'EIC' book has been in print for over 25 years. He is also the author of the Royal Geographical Society's History of World Exploration. As a fellow of the Royal Literary Fund, his prose is rated 'exquisite' (Observer). For his literary contribution to Asian studies he was awarded the Royal Asiatic Society's Sykes Medal in 2009.Gardner first featured in Keay's The Explorers of the Western Himalaya, which the Irish Times described as 'a book to be bought, treasured and never ever lent'.