WHITE HUNTERS by Brian Herne


The Golden Age of African Safaris
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A starry-eyed who’s who of white hunters in Africa from the turn of the century to the present day, from professional big- game hunter Herne. It didn’t take a rocket scientist among the European explorers trooping about the Land of Punt (as north Somaliland was known in mid-19th century) to figure it was choice hunting terrain: You couldn’t throw a brick without hitting a giant eland, a bongo, a kudu, or a red lechwe. By the end of that century, professionals who guided hunting parties—i.e., the white hunters—were thick enough on the ground to have become an institution. They might have been a multitalented lot, as Herne writes, but foremost they were men’s men, fearless to a fault, and not infrequently terminated with extreme prejudice by their quarry. Herne specializes in these episodes. A great pachyderm finished off noted hunter Bill Judd (“The elephant smashed the pulped body to the ground again, and this time the elephant kneeled on Judd”), while the aristocratic, easygoing Fritz Schindelar got close to an intolerant nobleman of the jungle (“The lion knocked Fritz down and in seconds straddled him, tearing out his stomach with its teeth”). Gory incidents feature in many of the dozens of short biographical sketches, which include Bror Blixen and Denys Finch Hatton, of Isak Dinesen notoriety, among the men who accompanied presidents and emperors, assorted billionaires and movie stars. There is a measure of death and testosterone in these pages that can be disturbing, and Herne’s wine can easily be a reader’s poison: “The lion was beautifully silhouetted against the moonlit sky, and Foran killed it.” And Herne’s defense of the white hunters, accused of being part of the elephant-decimation problem, feels hollow: dedicated conservationists don’t have their photos taken with their foot on the head of a rhino they—ve just killed. Yet those who cherish stories of legendary nimrods at work in lands of mystery, romance, and danger will find this a deep trough from which to drink their fill. (50 b&w photos)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-8050-5919-9
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1999


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