A Great Read...

(Some book reviews...) (Page 3 of 4 pages.)

Great Adventure & Travel Writing:

Capstick, Peter Hathaway. 1978. Death in the Long Grass. St Martins Press(trade paperback) 297 pages; ISBN: 0312186134. PHC is one of the great legends in African hunting. Even if you are a hunter-hating PETA-ite, you ought to check out this book for its terrifyingly accurate study of wild animal behavior. Not only outstanding natural history, but true, terrifying tales of those close-encounters of the worst kind! As a natural scientist, history fanatic and writer, I have read a lot of books in my lifetime; I must say that this is my all time favorite. It is extremely well written and more scarey than most Stephen King novels. Use this as your intro to the late, great Peter's writing, then follow it up with Death in the Lonely Land, which delves more into his experiences in the jungles of Latin and South America.

Capstick, Peter Hathaway. 1990. Death in the Lonely Land. St Martins Press (Hard cover and trade paperback); ISBN: 0312038100. PHC chasing jaguars though the pitch-black jungle, close encounters with very poisonous snakes, and similar ill-tempered critters, PHC at his best--- mostly in Latin and South America, but with a few of his other writings (US, Asia and Africa) thrown in. The nightime jaguar hunting accounts, as well as the red-buffalo hunt in the "Green Hell" of Brazil story are classic PHC pulse-pounding thrillers... really good stuff!

Capstick, Peter Hathaway. 1981 (8th edition). Death in the Silent Places. St Martins Press (Trade paperback):ISBN: 0312186185.
Historical exploits of Colonels H. J. Patterson and Jim Corbett, who stalked legendary man-eaters on opposite sides of the world; of Karamojo Bell, perhaps the most successful elephant hunter of all time and Sasha Siemel, who tracked great cats armed only with a spear, etc. One of PHC's great historical collections.

Capstick, Peter Hathaway. 1998 (1st edition). Warrior: The Legend of Richard Meinertzhagen. St Martins Press (Hardcover and trade paperback) 295 pages; ISBN: 0312182716. PHC recounts the exploits of professional hunter, soldier and ornithologist, Richard Meinertzhagen. One of Africa's most notorius figures, Meinertzhagen's story is traced from his boyhood in England to his late life. Covert actions during WWII, overt ambushes during WWI and a lot of amazing stuff in between the wars. Equally at home as a student ofscience or a cold-blooded killer, Meinertzhagen was a fantastic creation of Victorian England and the land that was Africa.

Capstick, Peter Hathaway. 1992 (1st edition). The African Adventurers: A Return to the Silent Places. St Martins Press (Hardcover and trade paperback) 244 pages; ISBN: 0312076223. PHC recounts the exploits of the early professional hunter-explorers in Africa. Great historical information on the tribal make-up of Central Africa in the late 19th annd early 20th centuries. Frederick Courteney Selous, C.J.P. Ionides, and other notables.

Photo of P. H. Capstick

Yet another "hard day at the office."

---from the back jacket of Death in the Long Grass, St Martins Press.

Harrar, Heinrich. 1959 (1998). The White Spider. Tarcher/Putnam, New York, (trade paperback) ISBN: 0-87477-940-5. (First published byRupert Hart-Davis Ltd., London, 1959.) This book is a chronicle of the mountaineering attempts to climb the infamous North Face of the Eiger. In the heart of the Swiss Alps, immortalized in print and cinema, the Eiger has been described as a bacillus that attacks the mind of man, culminating in his calcualted suicide before curious onlookers far below. Part of this is due to the fact that the mountain summit is easily accessable from the long-standing beautiful tourist centers like Interlaken and Grindelwald, and acutally can be easily trecked up the south side ---an easy walk. However, the North face is a murderous shear face, mostly because of it's unique micro-climate. Usually in shade most of te day it hangs on to ice or newly flallen snow, only to release it later in the afternoon in torrents of water, cascades of falling ice sheets, or hurtling slabs of rock the size of sidewalk slabs. This feature of the mountain, as well as the cool train tunnel observation windows, etc., are nicely portrayed in the Eiger Sanction, a pretty neat little film starring Clint Eastwood as art professor / assassin Johnathon Hemlock. Harrar and his comrades pulled off the first successful climb of the North Face in 1938. This book is a tribute to, and a history of, the various attempts. This is the book Harrar wrote before Seven Years in Tibet --a pretty neat little film with Brad Pitt as the youthful adventurer / mountain climber Heinrich Harrar. Harrar has been attacked for his participation in the Nazi party in Austria in the 1940's, but that, unfortunately, was pretty much the way it was in that time and place; although most folks still find his political stance at that time pretty hard to reconcile with his experiential Buddhist studies in Tibet with the Dali Lama. Still, this is perhaps the greatest book ever written on the Eiger. Incidentally, I feel very fortunate to have visited Interlaken and the sorrounding environs in the Spring of 2001 and to have seen the Eiger, Monk and Jung Frau in person. I sincerely hope that you too have the chance to vist there if you have not already done so.

Herne, Brian. 1999. White Hunters. Owl Books (Henry Holt & Co.), New York, (trade paperback) ISBN: 0-8050-6736-1. This book is a historical overview that begins with the first Bwanas in the Land of Punt (Tanzania and Kenya). The usual cast of Africa's hunting/adventure elite: Selous, Bell, Isak Dinesen, Denys Finch Hatton, Al Lindsey Black, and many, many others. A great overview of how African hunting turned from exploration and exploitation (ivory hunting, gold, diamonds) to conservation, and then (in many areas) to renewed exploitation of the wild resources by the locals. A great book: a comprehensive historical overview, and an outstanding treatment to support the premis that responsible game management is the only reliable renewable resource that can bring in desperately needed foreign currency on a sustainable basis, as well as maintain a diversity of species in their habitat. Good anecdotal coverage of a few of the nastier little civil wars. ---Let's all jump on the Lunatic Express for a little journey through Mozambique shall we?!

McMillan, Scott, 1998. Mark of the Grizzly. Globe Pequot press, Guilford, Conn. (Trade paperback - 483 pages including index); ISBN: 0-1560446366. Great compilation of true accounts of grizzly attacks. Not for the weak of heart (or stomach). Very good reading for anyone planning to travel in Griz Country. Written in a casual style that evokes a fine novel. Good biological information in the final chapters.

Neider, Charles, ed. 2000 (1884, 1956). Man Against Nature: Firsthand Accounts of Adventure and Exploration. Cooper Square Press, New York (Trade paperback - 483 pages including index); ISBN: 0-8154-1040-9. Great compilation of adventure, expedition and survival stories. Beginning with Pliney the Younger's eyewitness description of the eruption of Vesuvious, the book covers extreme adventure situations from William Beebe's bathescaph dives in the Pacific Ocean, to Amundson at the South Pole... The list goes on and on (45 accounts) with stories by: Thor Heyerdahl, Jacques-Yves Custeau, Ernest Shackelton, Edmund Hillary, Ernest Hemingway, Jim Corbett, Charles Lindberg and Orville Wright, among others. This is quite the volume, and will keep the history, travel or adventure fanatic glued to the book for quite some time. This is one of my favorite books to take traveling since a story can be "knocked off" during the leg of a flight, or sitting around in an air terminal or hotel room.

O'Donoghue, Brian Patrick. 1996. My Lead Dog was a Lesbian: Mushing Across Alaska in the Iditarod --theWorld's Most Grueling Race. Random House, Vintage Departures Series (trade paperback) ISBN: 0-679-76411-9. (285-pages). This is a great story, particularly if you like dogs and appreciate the differences and similarities of their personalities. The Idatarod and the Yukon Quest are perhaps the two great enduring endurance races in the world and both are run under incredible environmental conditions. If you have ever wondered what it takes to run a dogsled, or just love the North Country, this book is for you. O'Donoghue placed 60 and was the "Red-Lantern Musher" the last person to finish in the 1991 Iditarod (one of the years that Martin Buser won the race). If you want to escape and really take a fantastic mental journey full of danger, beauty and incredible human (and canine) characters, please read this book. It should be noted that my friend David Olesen from my freshman and sophomore days at Northland College, Ashland, WI, now a writer, bush pilot and musher, placed 28 in this race. ---Way to go Dave!!! Please see my comments on Olesen's excellent book North of Reliance listed elsewhere.

Olesen, David. 1994. North of Reliance ---A Personal Story of Living Beyonnd the Wilderness. Northword Press Minocqua, WI (trade paperback) ISBN: 1-55971-433-6. This book is about David's experiences living on the Hoarfrost River in the Canadian Sub-Arctic with his wife Kristen, 150-miles from the nearest human. Olesens writing is relaxing and very enjoyable. His observations on humanity, as well as wildlife and the environment are refreshing in what is usually a genre beset by depressed, dauer, narrow-minded purists. For instance, his treatments of subsistence hunting are honest and favorable, something that is almost unheard of in most environmental literature where the writer trecks through subsistence cultures with a boat-load of freeze-dried food (donated by sponsors) and an elitist attitude (e.g., Johnathan Waterman in Arctic Crossing listed elsewhere). Olesen is a long-out-of-touch old friend from the two years that I spent at Northland College, Ashland WI, twenty years ago (in college he lived in the same rental house as Terri, my girlfriend at the time, now my wife). Olesen is now an accomplished writer and bush pilot... as well as competitive musher: Dave placed 28 in the 1991 Alaskan Iditarod dogsled race. Dave "walks the walk" without swagger, the true mark of a man who knows his craft and is comfortably centered in the world. (For a great account of the 1991 Alaskan Iditarod, please see my comments on O'Donoghue's excellent book listed elsewhere.)

Peacock, Doug. 1990. Grizzly Years: In Search of the American Wilderness. Henry Holt & Company LLC., New York, NY, (trade paperback 288-pages) ISBN: 0-8050-4543-0. For more than twenty years Doug Peacock travelled the mountains of Wyoming, Montana and other western states photographing and "unofficially" studying the grizzly. Doug was a Green Beret medic in the highlands of Viet Nam, and the book is his personal journey that interweaves the harsh reality of isolated jungle warfare with rebirth through close association with one of North America's top predators. He has contributed to National Geographic Magazine and television specials with his still and film photography, and his writing is enthralling. Doug was a close friend of the late Edward Abby (Desert Solitair, The Monkeywrench Gang) and is the basis for Abby's George Heyduke character, two words of fiction that are now synonymous with revenge, dirty tricks and standing up against a-holes and exploiters... ---enough said!

Seal Jeremy. 1999 (1st edition). The Snakebite Survivor's Club: Travels Among Serpents. Harcourt Brace. (Hardcover) ISBN: 0151005354. This is marketed as a "travel book." I don't really know why, it is far more than that. This is wonderfully written and really looks into that strange fascination that we humans have with poisonous snakes, cheating death, and adventure in general. (Not to mention that the writer goes continent hopping around the world researching this topic to get in touch with his own fears.) Other aspects of the book deal with tragic human relationships, sensual life experience and of course, cold remorseless death by mamba, rattlesnake, cobra, etc. It is a really a great sociological study with a hefty doses of geography and history thrown in. Not as rough and tumble as the Capstick stuff, yet intersting and at times, enthralling. I think that the section on the snake-handling redneck Christian who murders his wife through repeated rattler-strike exposure reads like some sort of surreal dream. For instance, those of you who know about Colonel John H. Patterson (his Tsavo work about 1898) from the Capstick-edited journals, Brian Haerne's book, or the absolutely super movie Ghost in the Darkness (Val Kilmer as Patterson), there is a neat Patterson account of a railroad-builder that climbed into a metal water tank to sleep in safety from the marauding man-eating Tsavo lion pride, unfortunately a (red) spitting cobra had already taken up residence in that cool, dark retreat. Once rigor set in, the poor fellow could not be removed from the openning, so the tank became his watery coffin (burial in the river Tsavo) the uncooperative tank finally sinking thanks to a magazine's-worth of perforations from Patterson and his pet .303-Brit.

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