Sunday, January 19, 2014

Book Review: Death in the Long Grass

Several years ago my craze for hunting literature started, ferreting around on Amazon for whatever I could find and afford. My adoration for people such as Theodore Roosevelt was in full swing and I ordered his book Theodore Roosevelt On Hunting. Award winning title, what? Well, at least it isn't misleading. On an impulse I added Death in the Long Grass to my roster, having a vague recommendation from an associate. Boy was that a decision I didn't expect to pay off!
Shortly later my package arrived, and trying not to salivate over my new merchandise I figured I would save Teddy's work after reading DTG, saving the best for last sort of thing.

How little I expected to like what I'd found! Written by Peter Hathaway Capstick, Death in the Long Grass is a collection of information and true stories about the wildlife in Africa, both in modern and the old days. Many of his own recitations are from his days of working as a professional hunter, guiding clients in the thick of the bushveldt. If you wish to read true, hair raising stories about lions, elephants, hippos, and any other type of dangerous animal of Africa, then this is the book for you! His own hands on experience gives great weight to his words, although very little of it is politically correct. Well, he was in the business of doing things, not trying to conform to social norms which he defies with exceptional weaving of words in a style that I've only seen rivaled once.

It's difficult to really identify his style, as it shifts here and there. On one hand he can lead an introduction with such thick atmosphere and detail that you'd expect him to be writing rugged poetry. Then he switches gears and delivers a frank, semi-sarcastic but amazingly entertaining tone. Often writers deliver information in a static, vague way as if they are talking to themselves. Peter however feels like he's sitting across from you and speaking to you directly, a manner which I find most engaging and mixes wonderfully with his excellent sense of humor that appeals to immature dolts like myself. His tone can shift between serious and winsome, or both at the same time without being jarring, yet it always feels like I'm talking to a normal person, which makes you feel as if you're actually getting to know the author as if you're engaging in his adventures with him. Ahhh, such a rare trait in writing!

Specific content you ask? Well, we get a spicy mixture of physical descriptions, particular man eaters, both ones he has dealt with or not, behaviors, hunting tactics, hunting ethics, superb stuff! But the gritty action is by far the best. From sorting out man eating lions and leopards to the reality-defying vitality of Nile crocs, to the ferocity of a wounded cape buffalo all the way to finding an unsociable black mamba in the toilet, this book has excellent tales that are sure to raise your hackles!

For context on how other people I know latched on, I lent this to my church bishop once. He was skeptical about a former stock broker from New Jersey writing about things in Africa, especially as he himself spent some time in the Savannah himself. But he decided to give it a try after much insistence. It took me almost four months to get that thing back, and even then only after I informed him that I was once again in possession of my firearm arsenal and ammunition. Good grief, I all but had to pry the thing from his hands with a crowbar to get my copy back! He enjoyed the book just as much as I did and was a full believer. To help soothe the misery of being separated from his newfound love, I gave him a copy of another book by Peter Capstick, but that's for a different post. I also lent this copy to another friend during a book swap, and while he wasn't quite as rabid about it as others were, he distinctly enjoyed it and even now we can still recite some of the anecdotes.

I highly recommend this book and hope some of you get the chance to take a peek. If you are interested you can find a copy right here. :) Happy hunting gents!

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