No doubt about it: P. J. O'Rourke has a bizarre sense of fun. "What I've ... been," he writes in his introduction to Holidays in Hell "is a Trouble Tourist--going to see insurrections, stupidities, political crises, civil disturbances and other human folly because ... because it's fun." Forget Hawaii or the Poconos--O'Rourke gets his jollies in places like war-torn Lebanon where he is greeted at the border by a gun barrel in his face, or Seoul, just in time for election-day violence. Wherever he goes, however, O'Rourke takes his quirky sense of humor, laser eye for detail, and artful way with words: a Philippine army officer is "powerful-looking in a short, compressed way, like an attack hamster," and the Syrian army is described as having "dozens of silly hats, mostly berets in yellow, orange and shocking pink, but also tiny pillbox chapeaux.... The paratroopers wear shiny gold jumpsuits and crack commando units have skin-tight fatigues in a camouflage pattern of violet, peach, flesh tone and vermilion on a background of vivid purple. This must give excellent protective coloration in, say, a room full of Palm Beach divorcees in Lily Pulitzer dresses."
O'Rourke's flip, sarcastic style isn't for everyone, of course; the concept that anyone could find sightseeing in the Beirut or El Salvador of the 1980s fun might prove offensive to more than a few readers right off the bat. But love him or hate him, P. J. O'Rourke knows how to tell a good story, and if you like your travel writing laced with more than a little cynicism, Holidays in Hell could be just the book you've been looking for.