Monday, August 16, 2010

Death in the Long Grass

Death in the Long Grass Review

Conrad, Nabokov, O'Connor, Wells--oh, bosh and phoeey! For real excitement on paper, read "Death in the Long Grass" by big-game hunter Peter Hathaway Capstick, adventure writer extraordinaire and man of up-close-and-personal, hairbreadth escapes from savage death many times over.

I personally met Mr. Capstick when I was assigned to interview him about his third and newest book (at the time), for our now-defunct local afternoon newspaper. He was a great interview, knowing how to answer questions and extend information for a great story of my own on paper. In preparation for the interview I bought all three of his books out at the time and had read the first one prior to meeting him. He personalized his autograph on his first book and signed the other two. The first is now a pricey collector's item.

You see, Peter Hathaway Capstick is up there in the Great Hall of Fame of adventure writers with the likes of Ernest Hemingway. For a person who loathes hunting and especially the thought of sport hunting like the big game animals of Africa, I actually enjoyed his first three books, which I read one after the other.

It's been over 20 years since I read those books or thought about them; however, one of my students recently asked for a book about the 10 most dangerous animals in Africa for his research project. I gave him what the library had, but they were not enough. Then I thought about Capstick's books and brought "Death in the Long Grass," the perfect book!

After he returned it, I started flipping through the pages, then just turned to page one and read Capstick's first book again. It's still an exciting read. First, his explanation why big game hunting is not a cruel sport rings so true. His description of what elephants do to humans who disturb them is a worst case scenario of human torture. After an elephant mucks up a body under his big feet, rolls him with its knees, and stirs him with his tusks, only to do the routine again, the body is rendered a jellied mess, or as Capstick describes it: "Results are most impressive."

So, the big question always is, according to Capstick: Which of the big game animals is the MOST dangerous? His answer is simple but complicated: What is the terrain? What is the weather? Day or night? Feeding conditions? In other words, the most dangerous game is determined by time and circumstance, not the animal itself, although its nature is part of the equation.

But read all the chapters, each devoted to a different animal, and the one that springs out (pardon the pun) as the most dangerous is the leopard. Other cats use the fear tactic of the roar, but the leopard is totally silent. If it is wounded and not killed, Capstick makes it obvious that this wounded beast is now THE most dangerous animal of all. In one hunt a wounded leopard in turn wounded five professional hunters before the animal was taken down. Each man was heavily armed.

Capstick most disliked the alligator. He once saw a seven foot gator kill a 500 pound hippo. When the hippo stuck its snout into the water for a drink, the alligator snapped on and the tug of life began. Eventually, the gator pulled the hippo under, drowned it, and ate it.

The rhinoceros is the most thick-headed and stupid. The scene of the rhino head-butting an abandoned railroad car left in his territory is the stuff of pratfall comedies. He head-butted all day long.

Capstick makes a fascinating comment toward the end and one which summarizes the big-game animals of Africa: "I don't know another hunter who doesn't--even if quietly--share my affection for the spotted hyena. The wild savagery of the animal's song is to me the symphony of the beauty, the horror, and the reality of life and death in the long grass, finally and at last, the truth" (285).

Capstick died from complications of heart surgery in 1996, long after his legacy was firmly established.

Death in the Long Grass Feature

  • ISBN13: 9780312186135
  • Condition: New
  • Notes: BUY WITH CONFIDENCE, Over one million books sold! 98% Positive feedback. Compare our books, prices and service to the competition. 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed

Death in the Long Grass Overview

Few men can say they have known Africa as Peter Hathaway Capstick has know it-- leading safaris through lion country; tracking man-eating leopards along tangled jungle paths; running for cover as fear-maddened elephants stampede in all directions. And of the few who have known this dangerous way of life, fewer still can recount their adventures with the flair of this former professional hunter-turned-writer.

Based on Capstick's own experiences and the personal accounts of his colleagues, Death in the Long Grass portrays the great killers of the African bush-- not only the lion, leopard, and elephant, but the primitive rhino and the crocodile waiting for its unsuspecting prey, the titanic hippo and the Cape buffalo charging like an express train out of control. Capstick was a born raconteur whose colorful descriptions and eye for exciting, authentic detail bring us face to face with some of the most ferocious killers in the world-- underrated killers like the surprisingly brave and cunning hyena, silent killers such as the lightning-fast black mamba snake, collective killers like the wild dog. Readers can lean back in a chair, sip a tall, iced drink, and revel in the kinds of stories Hemingway and Ruark used to hear in hotel bars from Nairobi to Johannesburg, as veteran hunters would tell of what they heard beyond the campfire and saw through the sights of an express rifle.

As thrilling as any novel, as taut and exciting as any adventure story, Death in the Long Grass takes us deep into the heart of darkness to view the Africa that few people have ever seen.

Death in the Long Grass Specifications

Hook-and-bullet adventures had by tough guys such as Teddy Roosevelt and Papa Hemingway may be out of favor in these times of eco-awareness, but Peter Hathaway Capstick's account of big-game hunting in Africa remains a classic. With humor, grace, and supreme tension, Capstick takes the reader on safari, eloquently stating his case for blood sport while portraying the intensity of the hunt.

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