This book describes the author’s years working for a Dutch flower-growing farm in Kenya in the 1970s. This may seem strange employment for an ex-soldier, formerly of the Paras and the SAS, but his job was to root out corruption amongst the local management and prevent poaching on the company’s large game estate.
- Brian Astor Dodd
This book is great; it’s as simple as that. The references to the author’s time in the Army are comparatively limited and the book works as an outstanding collection of short stories or ‘dits’ (as the old and bold would call them). The stories are all linked but there is no neat chronological thread, making this a very easy book to dip into at leisure. Some of the stories are quite superb; his battle of wills with the local witchdoctor is enthralling (I never knew that cans of baked beans could be used in that way) and his descriptions of the African bush and vivid and colourful. The horror of wounded animals, especially those caught in snares or with infected wounds from arrows, is described sympathetically and in some detail; the reader is left in little doubt as to the suffering caused and the need for humane killing by the game wardens.
The author’s love for Africa and the Africans shines through with every page. Hired as a manager and a leader, he has to work despite the expat British and Dutch and for the local Africans; it is readily apparent with whom he prefers working! He comes across very much as a man who respected his employees and worked hard to improve both their working and living conditions. He values their skills and talents and rewards them appropriately. It is interesting to note that, much like the British Army in the post-colonial wars, he brings what might be viewed as his enemies (ie poachers) into his employ as game wardens and their skills are quickly seen to be highly effective.
His relations with his wife and young family are also a central plank to the story. His wife’s casual bravery is remarked on several times; her trust in him is based along the lines that unless ‘Brian says it is dangerous, then it’s safe’. There is a strong logic here but it does result in her poking a python with a stick in an attempt to get a better photograph. Stories like these, which demonstrate the author’s mistakes as well as his successes, add to both the humanity and the humour of the book.
There was one small issue and, unfortunately, the grammar was erratic at times so the odd sentence had to be re-read at times. This is a trivial point which better editing would have sorted out. Please bear in mind that if I’m raising this as an issue, there is very little wrong with the book!
I recommend this to everyone. It is not a book focussed on the Army but on Africa and its wonders. Read it; it’s a lot of fun!