Books by Jack Couffer

THE CATS OF LAMU by Jack Couffer
NON-FICTION
Released: June 30, 1998

A whimsical and surprisingly winning study of the cats indigenous to the Lamu Archipelago, a series of small islands off the coast of Kenya. Couffer (Bat Bomb: World War II's Secret Weapon, etc.) argues that, due to their likely long isolation on the islands, these distinctivc-looking cats may be the closest living representatives of the wild breed that the Egyptians first domesticated some 4,000 years ago. That isn't established here with any certainty, though it is true that the flocks of cats that haunt the beaches of the islands, waiting for the local fishing fleets to return, and that inhabit the islands mangrove swamps, do share with the cats represented in ancient Egypt a distinctive blend of long legs, a slim body, a long neck and a small head. Couffer, to the bafflement of Lamu's Muslim population, spent his days closely following the extended groups of cats (he calls them "prides") around, and he describes their intelligence and self-sufficiency with vigor and affection. His photographs capture with clarity and a sharp eye both the lives of these multicolored felines and the traditional rhythms and details of Lamu's human inhabitants. (100 color and b&w photos) Read full book review >
HISTORY
Released: Oct. 31, 1992

Another batman has returned—this one with inside information on a wondrously droll, highly classified yarn from WW II. Shortly after Pearl Harbor, Couffer (The Lions of Living Free, 1972, etc.), on the strength of his experience as a teenage student assistant to a mammalogist employed by the Los Angeles County Museum, became a key player in one of military history's weirder chapters. The idea was to attach small incendiary bombs to millions of bats that would be released over Japan's largest cities; once the bats had roosted, the scheme's backers assumed, fires would flare up in remote recesses of the wood and paper structures common in Japan's urban areas, reducing major population centers to ashes. The notion of kamikaze bats was dreamed up and promoted by an eccentric oral surgeon, Lytle Adams (known as ``Doc''), whose powers of persuasion were such that he not only enlisted the personal support of FDR but also gained federal funds for his brainchild. Drawing on his own observations as the youngest member of Doc's odd little army, and on declassified archival sources, Couffer recalls the ultrasecret work that he and his offbeat colleagues did in out-of-the-way venues ranging from Bandera, Texas (a hamlet convenient to bat caves), through Utah's Dugway Proving Grounds. Despite technical difficulties, personality conflicts, turf battles, and allied woes, the intrepid members of Project X- Ray achieved a significant measure of success. Indeed, in their first one-way flight test bat bombers burned a new auxiliary air base to the ground. But early in 1944, the Pentagon killed the promising plan—in order, Couffer believes, to concentrate on the development of the atomic bomb. A well-told, stranger-than-fiction tale that could make a terrific movie. (Thirty-three b&w photographs—not seen.) Read full book review >