Saturday, 26 March 2016

Re-introducing a Great Adventure Writer

     One is hard pressed to find even a copy of H. G. Wells in my local suburban library, but when I was a teenager in the 1960s it was a source of hardback copies of lots of older writers, such as Edgar Rice Burroughs, Baroness Orczy, R. M. Ballantyne - and H. Rider Haggard. One day, my mother brought me home a book by the last author, Nada the Lily. At once I was immersed in a larger than life milieu: the bloody world of the Zulu king, Shaka, "the black Napoleon". I thrilled to the exploits of the invincible hero, Umslopogaas, who wielded a great axe, who roamed the veldt with his friend, Galazi, at the head of a pack of "wolves" (ie hyenas), and who loved the beautiful Zulu maiden, Nada. It left me with two ambitions: to learn more about this phase of African history and, most of all, to read more of the author. Over the following 50+ years, I have scoured libraries, secondhand book shops, and lately reprint publishers, and have just completed the twenty ninth.
     However, I have noticed that H. Rider Haggard appears to have dropped off many people's radar by now. Even my son-in-law, who grew up in South Africa, had never heard of him. In fact, I read on a now extinct website that most of his fans are people like me: baby boomers who were introduced to him by an earlier generation. In that case, it is time to pass the torch and reintroduce one of my favourite authors to a new generation.

Friday, 4 March 2016


     A doctor once gave me a recipe for avoiding heart disease: have a naturally long and lanky build (he was short and squat), don't smoke, get plenty of exercise, and eat lots of fresh vegetables and fruit, with moderate amounts of lean meat. "In other words," I replied, "live the life of a traditional tribal Aborigine." Then, as soon as I uttered the words, I realized their significance: until recently, the hunter gatherer lifestyle of the Aborigines was the way of life of all human beings and their immediate ancestors for a couple of million years. It was the lifestyle for which our bodies evolved.