Richard Halliburton, the handsome, romantic, try-anything daredevil of the Roaring 20s, put the dream into young Carey Moore’s head to climb to the top of Cheops’ pyramid.

Halliburton’s exploits around the world—climbing the Great Pyramid, swimming the Hellespont—became the stuff of his travelogues, which thrilled most of the public and left the skeptics appalled.

Critics called much of Halliburton’s writing fiction, saying that he had not done everything he claimed. So Halliburton made a habit of documenting his stunts with photographs. He stood by everything he claimed to have done, but said, “I splash a little red paint on it to make it interesting.”

In 1928, after christening himself the S.S. Halliburton, he paid a toll of 36 cents in order to swim the length of the Panama Canal. Halliburton followed Ulysses’ route round the Mediterranean; stowed away on a ship bound for Singapore; hiked the width of the Malay Peninsula; made the first-ever, midwinter, solo climb of Mt. Fuji; retraced Hannibal’s journey across the Alps, complete with an elephant from the Paris zoo; and faked his own death.

Halliburton was accused of pulling stunts just for publicity. His response? “The world doesn’t really want philosophers and intellects. The world wants escape.”

In the madcap 20s Halliburton’s style fit right in. His first book, The Royal Road to Romance, sold 100,000 copies in 1926. He followed with The Glorious Adventure, another best seller. For his lectures, he earned the impressive sum of $500 a piece. Once, when the tickets sold out, his disappointed fans almost rioted.

In 1929, two weeks before the publication of his third book, New Worlds to Conquer, the stock market crashed. Halliburton lost heavily. Though the public still loved him, his zany stunts were less appreciated during the black times of the Depression. Halliburton’s fourth book, The Flying Carpet, recounting his two-year escapade in a scarlet biplane, didn’t sell well. This exploit left him broke, and Halliburton found the life of the adventurer less and less appealing. He began working just to make ends meet, doing product endorsements and starring in a cheap film, India Speaks.

In 1938, Halliburton announced his final adventure. He would journey through his own country and write The Royal Road to Romance in the U.S.A. To kick off the trip, he built a Chinese junk, Sea Dragon, in Hong Kong and set sail for America.

On March 24, 1939, the liner President Coolidge picked up a radio message from Halliburton’s ship; they were caught in a storm. The Sea Dragon was never found.

Some wanted to believe that Halliburton had faked his death once again to drum up more publicity, a rumor that actually delayed the search for the Sea Dragon by six weeks. Less cynical people thought it fitting that Halliburton died while battling mother nature and the forces of the sea. Halliburton would have approved this heroic image, for he had long wished to be “spared a stupid, common death in bed.”