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To the Elephant Graveyard


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About the Author

Tarquin Hall is a British author and journalist who lived for many years in India. He now lives in Bath, England with his wife Anu Anand and two children. He is the author of five Vish Puri mysteries, and two other works of non-fiction.


Equal parts travel story and adventure tale, this volume leads readers on a meandering journey through the farthest reaching corners of India. Hall, a Gen-X British journalist who published his first book, Mercenaries, Missionaries and Misfits, when he was 23, fills his book with wildlife preserves, rebel factions, farmers, indigent elephant caretakers (mahouts) and British holdovers from the days of the Raj. Working as an AP reporter, the author gets a lead for an article: an elephant is rampaging through Assam, India, inexplicably murdering the inhabitants of small villages. One mahout recounts how sick elephants are led into the forest where the elephants themselves pick herbs. The mahouts then prepare and apply the herbs, and in this way the elephants heal themselves. For Hall, this ritual raises many questions about the elephants: How intelligent are they? How compassionate? How murderous? Much of this book is filled with Hall's mercurial attitudes toward the elephant (he flip-flops between wanting the killer elephant placed on a reserve safe from humans and wanting the beast dead) and the Indian people he meets. His story is a page-turning detective tale that recounts how the motley group of journalists, mahouts and government-employed hunters stalked the killer elephant through the wild territory of India. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Many elephants, wild and domesticated, are still found on the northeastern frontier of India known as Assam. Their numbers, however, are being significantly reduced by poachers and a shrinking natural environment. Official efforts are made to protect the elephant population, but at times it becomes necessary to kill rogue or rampaging elephants. Hall, a British journalist and the author of Mercenaries, Missionaries and Misfits: Adventures of an Under-Age Journalist, accompanied an authorized hunter to track down and kill one such elephant. Along the way he met a number of colorful characters whom he masterfully depicts in this engaging account. His fine storytelling and skill at handling dialog come through as he pieces together a lively portrait of contemporary Assam, including a considerable amount of elephant fact and lore. He also wrestles with the dilemmas of striking a balance with nature: When is it justified to kill a magnificent specimen of an endangered species? There is something for everyone in this most interesting account. Recommended for public libraries.DHarold M. Otness, formerly with Southern Oregon Univ. Lib., Ashland Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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