Safari guide Allison (Whatever You Do, Don’t Run: True Tales of a Botswana Safari Guide, 2007) recalls his experiences with deadly animals.
In ragged chronological fashion, the author takes us on a ten-year journey, from his period of guide training, to his unsatisfying experiences as a trainer of other guides, to his four-year Australian hiatus and, finally, his happy return to Africa. The chapters—mainly stand-alone accounts of his experiences—follow a general pattern: I didn’t realize what I was doing; I got in trouble; I escaped with my life! Often the segments begin with a bit of dialogue and feature varying measures of self-deprecation (frequently about his feckless driving), wildlife lore, some exciting bit of danger—often, conveniently, beyond the view of any witnesses other than himself and the beast—and even the occasional insensitive analogy: He makes facetious allusions to both Helen Keller and the fire-bombing of Dresden. Along the way are obligatory I-could’ve-died moments—often late at night, his only weapon a flashlight with dying batteries—with lions, leopards and a particularly annoyed elephant that punished Allison for trying to snatch a souvenir hair or two from its tail. There are moments of regret, too, generally involving the death of an animal. On one occasion the author informed the local authorities about a buffalo threatening the camp; two shooters arrived to deal with it and enacted what the author calls “an incomprehensively brutal slaughter.”
In some of the world’s most remote and fascinating locations, Allison sticks resolutely to the most conventional narrative road.