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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
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 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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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
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Story! Feb. 25 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
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. The movie The Ghost and the Darkness is based on this story but the book is even better than the movie was.
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5.0 out of 5 stars really good... May 28 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
... 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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars This is Africa at its best July 24 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
What a man from a time past had a job to do and the courage to do it . I`m in awe .
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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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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Monument to human incompetence and carelesness Nov. 9 2003
Format:Hardcover
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. The rest is certainly valid armchair geography/travel reading on East Africa and tribes which must have been valuable knowledge for the readers at the time of writing.
The style is clear and factual and very neutral. The feeling is the author neither exaggerates nor downplays the events. You could call it typical military style of writing (describing events).
An interesting thing is, that in spite of the incompetence of the author's most trusted and critical staff helpers he never fires or worse, kills them, which their merits or lack there of certainly could have earned them given the time an place (19th century colonnial Africa, the darkest place since medieval Europe).
As en example, on a very critical time his helper carrying extra guns simply vanished as they were in front of the mighty and deadly beasts leving the authors grasping for a non-existing gun.
At another point a helper carrying the necessary light to aim the lion likewise escaped up a tree leaving the author blined in front of the growling lion. None the less, he does not fire the staff or fire upon them. Amazing.
Not surprisingly the barriers of thorny bushes the camps start to barricade with are not well made. The clever and determined lions either find weaknesses in it or simply jump across them. These are indeed to humongous lions well over 9 feet. To top off the incompetency, the entrance is not well sealed off at night but the lions at one time gets throug there.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Almost there. March 3 2003
Format:Hardcover
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.
I must say I found it a bit boring sometimes.
The description of the lions of Tsavo is interesting, but a bit shallow. Even if you have seen the movie based on this book (The Ghost and the Darkness), you find it more exciting.
A book is, most of the time, a hundred times better than the movie, so this is probably the exception that confirms the rule. The book is too 'cold'. It looks you are reading a financial report. 'Today we saw 2 lions - stop. They eat 2 men - stop'.
Big lack of passion in it.
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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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Most recent customer reviews
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
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
4.0 out of 5 stars A Victorian Hunter's Thrilling Adventures in Africa
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. Read more
Published on Jan. 8 2003 by Mavis Monstrino
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Editor Capstick Needs Correcting
Everyone knows the lion story by now, and the book is historically accurate for the day. However, Peter Capstick, the Africa series editor, does the reader as well as the country... Read more
Published on March 18 2002
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