AT LARGE: The Fugitive Odyssey of Murray Hill and His Elephants by Gary Ross

AT LARGE: The Fugitive Odyssey of Murray Hill and His Elephants

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A trainer with two stolen elephants eludes a police search for five years. Murray Hill was well known in the fraternity of animal trainers--he had been on the road for 30 years with elephants, in circuses, movies, and TV commercials. In 1980, deciding to retire, he reluctantly put his last two elephants--females named Duchess and Tory--up for sale. Hill had brought them to his Missouri farm 16 years earlier; one had been 30 inches high and had been on a bottle her first two years. When father-and-son Californians Dick and Eddie Drake made an offer--$100,000 for the elephants and their specially built trailer--Hill called cronies and was told that the Drakes were good with animals. Financing the purchase, he stipulated that the Drakes were not to mistreat the elephants. When the Drakes fell a number of payments behind, Hill went to collect and found both elephants nervous and frightened, suffering from infected hook wounds (Hill himself controlled them entirely with verbal commands) and foot rot. Under cover of night, Hill drove away with the elephants. When Drake sued and a judge ruled that Hill had to return the animals, Hill went into hiding rather than see ""the girls"" abused. The story of Hill's five fugitive years is expertly told here by novelist Ross (Tears of the Moon, 1988), who also reveals much that is fascinating about Hill's world: how elephants are trained; how periodic testosterone floods turn bull elephants into killers; how African and Asian elephants differ; and, most vividly (as seen through Hill's diary), how Duchess and Tory each boasted an idiosyncratic personality. Eventually, the FBI traced Hill to a Texas farm; Duchess and Tory were given to the Drakes, and Hill was tried for theft. A thoughtful adventure not only for animal lovers but for anyone who enjoys offbeat tales.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1992
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Random House