Careers of six famous big-game hunters--for devotees of this vanishing (literary and real-life) species. Most spectacular is the tale of Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson, overseer of the ""Lunatic Line"" built, in 1896, to connect Mombasa with Lake Victoria--who set out nightly (and daily) to gun the pair of man-eating lions marauding his camps and went half-mad with frustration tracking them for nine months. Capturing one in a baited trap, he lost it in one of a series of hunter's pratfalls that author Capstick (a jester) delights in recounting; not until the pair had eaten some 35 people did Patterson get them, on separate nights--the second, bigger beast taking eight slugs. Major Chauncey Hugh Stigand probably absorbed the most punishment: after surviving an attack by two rhinos (which tore off part of his chest), he was mauled by a lion he thought he'd shot, then trampled near fatally by an elephant, finally killed in battle by a spear though the chest. Others include: Alexander ""Sasha"" Siemel, the most celebrated tigrero in Brazil; W. D. M. ""Karamojo"" Bell, a legendary ivory hunter; Col. Edward James (Man-Eaters of Kumaon) Corbett, slayer of India's greatest man-eating tigress (over 435 victims); and all-around adventurer Major P. J. Pretorious--who escaped cannibals, poached ivory, helped the British locate and destroy the German battle cruiser Konigsburg on the Rufiji River. The action simmers and boils, but the writing blunders along with lame humor and hunter's side-of-mouth banalities.