White Hunters: The Golden Age of African Safaris

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9780805059199: White Hunters: The Golden Age of African Safaris

East africa affects our imagination like few other places: The sight of a charging rhino goes directly to the heart; the limitless landscape of bony highlands, desert, and mountain is of "unequalled nobility", writes Dinessen. The adventures recorded here lasted only seventy years but include the legendary big-game safaris led by Selous and Bell; early hunters who by necessity were explorers; the Hill cousins, J. A. Hunter and Ionides; Cape-to-Cairo Grogan, who walked 4,000 miles for the love of a woman; Bror Von Blixen and the romantic Denys Finch. Their exploits inspired Hemingway's stories and movies with Clark Gable and Gregory Peck. Animal lovers, these hunters were the first conservationists, witnesses to the richest wildlife spectacle the earth has ever known.Brian Herne, formerly a professional hunter and one of the few awarded the Shaw and Hunter Trophy, evokes the harmony that existed between hunters and big game before poaching and politics intervened. White Hunters summons adventure, danger, and romance on a grand scale.

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Review:

A little over 100 years ago, East Africa was terra incognita to most whites: a land largely unmapped, sparsely settled by Europeans, and teeming with wildlife--from elephants to wildebeest, bongos to rhinos, and all manner of scarifying beasts in between. It was the hunter-adventurer's paradise, and by the early 20th century, a small, lionhearted clan of explorers and big-game hunters began leading safaris there for money. They became the legendary White Hunters of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, men who led manifold adventurers--including royalty, film stars, writers, and millionaires--in pursuit of the world's biggest, most dangerous, and most sought-after game.

White Hunters is a nostalgic and densely-packed history of these men and their adventures, from the turn of the century until the 1970s when politics, a growing population, civil strife, and concern about species destruction intervened. Brian Herne has written a virtual and anecdotal Who's Who of White Hunters, crammed with the details of hundreds of hunts and the dozens of men who led them.

This is no book for the faint-hearted or the politically correct. Despite Herne's insistence that his heroes were the first true conservationists, White Hunters is all about the testosterone-enhanced glory of killing big, beautiful things: "Clary fired, dropping his quarry with a side brain shot. The record-class tusks weighed 159 and 143 pounds each, a gigantic elephant...." On the other hand, a staggering number of hunters died in pursuit of their quarry--mauled, eviscerated, or impaled on the tusks of furious, vengeful beasts.

Not so long ago lions wandered the streets of Nairobi. The politics of big-game hunting aside, the White Hunters' East Africa--wild, mysterious, unspoiled--is vanishing, and Herne has painstakingly documented an era that most readers will likely never know. --Svenja Soldovieri

About the Author:

The founder of the international professional hunters' magazine Track, Brian Herne has written for numerous magazines including Outdoor Life, Petersen's Hunting, Safari Times, and African Life. He now lives in San Diego, California.

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