"The Sea at Mombasa is as blue as cornflower," wrote Isak Dinesen, "and, outside the inlet to the harbour, the long breakers of the Indian Ocean draw a thin crooked white line, and give out a low thunder even in the calmest weather." Vast, untamed, mysterious, and profoundly beautiful, Africa has always exerted a powerful sway over its Western admirers. And the dual nature of the Dark Continent reflected in Dinesen's lines--a paradise with a dark, forbidding undercurrent--has for three centuries inspired what John A. Murray now reveals as a unique literary genre. In Wild Africa he combines a diverse sampling from this rich trove of African nature and travel writing with traditional myths and stories in fashioning a book that brings to life the spirit of the African wilderness. In these pages the reader will share the experiences of the most intrepid adventurers as they endure the weather (as hot as 137 Farenheit in the Sahara), the dangerous animals (lions, crocodiles, and cobras), parasites (tapeworms, leeches), and nature's most potent arsenal of biological weaponry (cerebral malaria, sleeping sickness, dengue fever). The writings gathered in this book reflect not only these extremes of the land, but the extremes of human experience as well--or what Joseph Conrad described as the "joy, fear, sorrow, devotion, valour, rage" that is amplified in the wilds of Africa. Here we follow John Barrow on his 1797 search for the unicorn he believed could be found in South Africa; watch as Dr. David Livingstone is mauled by a lion prior to his discovery of Victoria Falls ("besides crunching the bone into splinters, he left eleven teeth wounds in the upper part of my arm"); and accompany Teddy Roosevelt on a 1909 safari in which 512 animals were killed for the Smithsonian's permanent collection. The personalities we encounter are also unforgettable, from the formidable Scottish explorer Mungo Park, to the famed big-game hunter J.H. Patterson (whose fatal love triangle with Mr. and Mrs. Audley James Blyth was the basis for Hemingway's "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber"), to contemporary biologist Delia Owens (who protests the incursion into the Kalihari of would-be uranium miners). Murray seamlessly weaves these disparate voices into a passionate whole, a book which in the end becomes an eloquent plea for the further conservation of Africa's immense yet dwindling natural resources. Above all, it is the beauty of Africa that intrigues us most, the majesty of the Nile, the exotic wildlife of the Serengeti Plain, the gorillas in the mists of Rwanda. Wild Africa is a rare delight.
John Murray is the editor of numerous nature anthologies, such as "Out among the Wolves", "The Great Bear" & "Nature's New Voices". Most recently, he is the author of the acclaimed book "Cinema Southwest". He lives in Denver.