John Northcote writes the story of his lifefrom war time sailor in Briton's Royal Navy, to a farmer in Kenya, and his evolution into a leading PH of the second Safari Golden Agethe post war years of World War Two. This age came to a dramatic end when the southward march of Marxist revolutions altered Africa's political landscape. Northcote's memoir, a 400 page tome, provides an intimate look into the world of the professional hunter of these years and the book is worth reading if for no other reason than the stories about the men and women, who were the era's characters.
Northcote has written what I believe is an essential history of this second golden age. I base this position in part on my research that contributed to my thesis, Peter H. Capstick And The Tradition of The Hemingway Hero of The Genre of Outdoor Literature. (To my knowledge this is presently the only critical study of Capstick's work and I would be very interested in learning of any other Capstick studies. I encourage any reader who is aware of a study to contact me by email using the email address at the end of this review.). Additionally ongoing studies of our genre, especially the philosophy and history of outdoor literature, continue to provide me with a wider perspective of outdoor texts and I have discovered that some of the work published in the past thirty years is far more important than either the author or publisher may be aware. From Sailor To Professional Hunter is just such a work and is deserving of a much more detailed investigation! The characters who march across the pages often provide intimate and always informative records of the people and events of Africa's Second Safari Golden Age.
Northcote begins his narrative with childhood recollections of his father, one of England's top marksmen, and a member of England's 1924 Olympic shooting team. From his father and uncles Northcote inherited a love of the shooting sports that guided his life. He was also influenced, as were many youngsters between the World Wars, by the adventure novels popular at that time. He also had a sense of adventure that ultimately contributed to him and some friends blowing up a rusting WWI field piece. After this incident Northcote found himself on a cadet training ship. This was the springboard to his wartime naval service, the first phase of his life of adventure.
When the Axis powers were finally defeated Northcote married his wartime sweetheart, Betty Taylor. Within a year he left the Royal Navy and with his wife and with other members of their families, joined the immigration to Kenya where lands were being opened for settlement. He soon went on his first safari and from then on he was able to combine his love of hunting with farming, although early on the reader can sense Northcote's developing conflicts with political authority. When the government decided to reallocate many of the farms to the indigenous population he and many other farmers were forced to sell their farms back to the government for a fraction of their true wortha bitter pill that shaped much of his attitude toward government officials.
A second life changing event was the untimely loss of his wife. She was obviously a pillar of his world and the two events left him rudderless until the offer of a job as a professional hunter with the newly formed Uganda Wildlife Development, Ltd., a œhunting company. Northcote soon carved himself a new home in Uganda and as the UWD grew, annually booking more safari clients, Northcote's stature as PH grew as well. John Northcote also become a participant-observer of a second historical age.