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The Man-Eaters of Tsavo: The Incredible True Story That Inspired the Motion Picture "the Ghost and the Darkness [Mass Market Paperback]

J. H. Patterson
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 1996
Dive into one of the most harrowing episodes of man versus beast ever told. From the pen of the intrepid officer who risked his life many times over in an effort to stop the carnage, The Man-Eaters of Tsavo is a terrifying true-life tale in which men become the hunted. Original.

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From Amazon

In 1898 John H. Patterson arrived in East Africa with a mission to build a railway bridge over the Tsavo River. What started out as a simple engineering problem, however, soon took on almost mythical proportions as Patterson and his mostly Indian workforce were systematically hunted by two man-eating lions over the course of several weeks. During that time, 100 workers were killed, and the entire bridge-building project ground to a halt. As if the lions weren't enough, Patterson had to guard his back against his own increasingly hostile and mutinous workers as he set out to track and kill the man-eaters. This larger-than-life tale forms the basis of the entertaining film The Ghost and the Darkness, but for readers who want to know the whole--and true--story, The Man-Eaters of Tsavo comes straight from the great white-hunter's mouth.

Patterson's account of the lions' reign of terror and his own subsequent attempts to kill them is the stuff of great adventure, and his unmistakably Victorian manner of telling it only adds to the thrill. Consider this description of the aftermath of an attack by the lions: "...we at once set out to follow the brutes, Mr. Dalgairns feeling confident that he had wounded one of them, as there was a trail on the sand like that of the toes of a broken limb.... we saw in the gloom what we at first took to be a lion cub; closer inspection, however, showed it to be the remains of the unfortunate coolie, which the man-eaters had evidently abandoned at our approach. The legs, one arm and half the body had been eaten, and it was the stiff fingers of the other arm trailing along the sand which had left the marks we had taken to be the trail of a wounded lion...." This classic tale of death, courage, and terror in the African bush is still a page-turner, even after all these years. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

First published in 1907, this title depicts the author's adventures in Africa. One incident, involving two man-eating lions that were preying on railroad workers, is the basis for the current feature film The Ghost and the Darkness. Fans of true adventure will be interested in this.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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IT was towards noon on March 1, 1898, that I first found myself entering the narrow and somewhat dangerous harbour of Mombasa, on the east coast of Africa. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
I have read this book perhaps 10 times now and it never gets any less amazing. Col. Patterson had a huge task to accomplish, none other than to ensure the mighty British Empire succeeded in being the first and the best as it always seen itself as. But to have to face these two lions was quite unexpected and was quite out of his league...but as a British Officer and engineer he had no other choice...and to fail was NOT an option. We today cannot imagine the life style of those early days of Africa. The slave trade and hunting elephants for ivory was considered the norm, but of course was frowned upon by the Victorian Empire. No one had had to deal with maneaters in Africa before [of course Corbett in India was already quite familiar with the terror of a maneater by this time...but that was of no help to Patterson]. I personally admire Patterson for his efforts. How he suceeded I still can't really understand..because skill as a dangerous game hunter had nothing to with the outcome...I guess he was just far luckier than most of us. As it says several times in the book "he escaped harm by just good fortune". Of course now we can see all the mistakes he made and now we know all the other ways these great cats could have been stopped earlier...but never the less he succeeded and in doing so wrote a riviting chapter in history. A fairly large portion of the book is devoted to his other excursions and adventures in the dark conteninent at the turn of the century...but even in these chapters there is a wealth of insight. Such examples as how hunting took place on the open Athi plains, of other maneaters along the "Lunatic line" such as at Voi. Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful glimpse of British Colonialism Feb. 11 2003
By M. Dog
Format:Hardcover
This is a fascinating book. The writer, Col. J.H. Patterson, was an engineer sent to Africa to work on the "Lunatic Express", a stretch of rail that spanned Africa. Several obstacles confronted him, not the last of which was a pair of mane-less lions that went on a man-eating spree that lightened the coolie labor force by about 30 workers and an unrecorded number of African workers. Several things become apparent as one reads this work: first, the unbelievable hubris of the British Empire, personified in the person of Patterson. By the end of the book, I was won over by this clearly Victorian man, who without any specific training simply sorted out whatever problem came his way, including the hunting and killing of the two lions. This feat in itself required a staggering amount of courage and determination. This book is a glimpse into the soul, both good and bad, of the Empire on which the sun never set: Patterson was incredibly brave, smart, maybe even noble - and never once saw a native African as anything other than faithful or amusing.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good but not great... Feb. 1 2002
Format:Hardcover
If you are used to the spine-tingling, nerve-wracking suspense and excitement of Jim Corbett books, this will be more of a disappointment. Titled incorrectly, this book focuses more on the work (bridge construction) of Patterson than on the man-eaters themselves. The man-eaters would've actually been killed long before you reached the half-marker. The rest of the book focuses on other adventures(misadventures) of Patterson i.e hippo hunting, rhino hunting, and meeting native african tribes.
Patterson is not very good at keeping the suspense and divulges many secrets long before they happen. There is therefore no element of surprise. Patterson did not give me the impression of either being a good tracker or a good shot. I also did not like the way he describes the man-eaters (brutes) and their victims (wretches).
Even though this book will look good in anyone's personal collection (as it is a part of history), a really riviting man-eater hunting book would be that of Jim Corbett.
My overall impression of this book - 'Much ado about nothing'
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Format:Hardcover
The Man-Eaters of Tsavo is an exciting account of the author's pursuit of 2 man-eating lions that are disrupting the progress of a British railway. While I was disappointed the lions were dispatched early into the book (all suspense ruined by the chapter title "death of the first man-eater"),the rest of the book shows us a bit more about Lt. Colonel Patterson, Africa, and the era Man-Eaters of Tsavo was written in. Even if the man-eaters are dead, Patterson still manages to recount other hunts and adventures he has in Africa while the railroad is being built.
Also of note are the stunning photographs of the wildlife, land, and natives. They add immensely to the book, although it can be argued a good book needs no pictures. The pictures, in addition to the large font, make this book a short, but enjoyable read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An exciting story Oct. 9 2000
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
I read this book more than twenty years ago after first seeing the display in the Field Museum of the actual lions in the main story.
The story of the predation of the railroad workers is horrifying, and the accounts of the hunt are full of terror and suspense. The almost supernatural powers of the lions to avoid the hunter makes the story almost as entertaining as Dracula. However, as one reader already noted, this story is only a part of the book. I also found the other stories tedious.
And one must also wonder how the laborers could have been "shopped" by the lions night after night, almost like produce in a grocery store, without taking a more active defense. After all, they must have had implements that could have been used as weapons in a pinch.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars really good...
... this is my kind of story. It is a well told first person account of a strange occurrence while trying to build a bridge in Africa. It's an interesting look at a by-gone era.
Published 4 months ago by brad dube
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
it's all good!!!!!!!!
Published 7 months ago by bryon mills
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Story!
This is a really interesting account of lion attacks on railroad workers in Uganda and the man, Colonel Patterson, who hunted them and killed them. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Jenifer Mohammed, Author of Resurrecting Cybele
4.0 out of 5 stars This is Africa at its best
What a man from a time past had a job to do and the courage to do it . I`m in awe .
Published 15 months ago by graham neal
2.0 out of 5 stars Not even half as good as Corbett books !
Patterson's book on The Man-Eaters of Tsavo is about a pair of notorious lions which feasted on Indian laborers and coolies working for the British government in building railway... Read more
Published on July 17 2004 by S. Ghosh
5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting read
Patterson is a fascinating character. After reading his account, I am left with many questions. It is obvious that he was not much of soldier or engineer during his time in... Read more
Published on Nov. 14 2003 by Pete
2.0 out of 5 stars Monument to human incompetence and carelesness
Didn't live up to the hype. The part with the 2 clever lions, which surely must have been the Einsteins of lions, is only about a third of the book but wisely the first part. Read more
Published on Nov. 9 2003 by "thulemanden"
5.0 out of 5 stars None better
Tales of African hunting don't get better than this. An amazing story, a fabulous writer, and (in this edition) a great quality book. Highly recommended.
Published on July 29 2003
3.0 out of 5 stars Almost there.
Ok, I read this after having read 'In the Long Grass' by Capstick, and the result was obvious. This book is not even half good compared to the other one. Read more
Published on March 3 2003 by Cristián A. Gaymer
1.0 out of 5 stars Much ado about nothing
Even though the experience of hunting some of the most fierce maneaters in the world is awe inspiring, Patterson's poor writing skills makes you lose all interest in it. Read more
Published on July 18 2002
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