Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Last Ivory Hunter: A Chronicles' Book Review

© 2009 Albert A Rasch
The Last Ivory Hunter
The Saga of Wally Johnson
By Peter Capstick

Wally Johnson was one of the best professional hunters in Africa. Starting out in Mozambique as a professional ivory hunter when elephants were as thick as fleas, he branched out into gold prospecting and mining. Then he was a safari leader for more than fifty years. He shot nearly 100 lions, 1300 elephants and almost 2000 cape buffalo throughout his many years on the African continent. It was the 1975 Marxist and revolution and eventual destruction of Mozambique that finally forced Wally to leave his beloved country.

Many years later, around a safari campfire on the banks of the Mupamadazi River in the Luangwa Valley in Zambia, Peter Capstick picks up the thread and weaves a new tapestry. In Capstick's imitable style, he has blended the words of Wally and his own comments into a seamless chronicle of an unspoiled Africa where mighty tuskers teemed and a man could carve out his own destiny with a sharp panga, accurate rifle, steely nerves, and his wits.

In over 150 hours of conversations by leadwood and mopane campfires in the African bush, interviews in his home, and conversations with Wally’s family members, Capstick tells us Wally’s career. But this is not a biography in the strictest sense of the word, it is rather a collaboration, a conversation, between two hunters around a campfire. Wally recounts for us how he survived the poisonous bite of a Gaboon Viper, and being gored by a buffalo. He tells us of fortunes gained and lost, of people met, and just as mysteriously disappeared. Interestingly enough, as a bush mechanic Wally had no peer!

Capstick records Wally’s adventures with safari clients (Robert Ruark was one of them); stories about the natives and their magic arts. Capstick and Wally artfully weave a wonderful story, vividly recalling a time that is no more.

These are the reminiscence of a grand old man, a professional hunter retelling the events that were his life, to be recorded by a writer, another hunter. This is the story of a Wally Johnson, hunter, prospector, and refugee who lived an extraordinary life in Mozambique.

As a fan of Peter Capstick, I highly recommend this book; you won't regret it. Capstick is at his story telling finest, and if some of it may seem implausible, maybe unbelievable, remember...

You weren't there!

Albert A Rasch
The Hunt Continues...


Cathy Smith said...

Hi Albert,
Just stopped by for a visit. That sounds like a fascinating book.

When I was young, I used to read my Dad's Outdoor Life magazine when he was finally done with it and I was always intrigued by the stories of big game hunters in Africa.

All the best,
Cathy S. Smith
Camp Chicken Chronicles
and Whitetails For Women

The Envirocapitalist said...

You will not find any stories like these in outdoor magazines today. Capstick used to write for several magazines. I do not believe he has a big name contempary today. I own all of his books. I don't care it is all true.... I enjoy the reading.