EDITING AFRICAN ADVENTURE STORIES

I’m a big believer in the connections of life. The oddest connections happen to me because, no doubt, I’ve grown up and lived in many places in the world, have written for newspapers, live in Los Angeles, and write a blog about my various adventures and synchronicities in life. This story about L. Dickson Griffith attracted Bill, a fellow from Atlanta whose father was a good friend of my friend Dick. Bill’s father has passed on, as has Dick, no doubt. Bill found Dick’s book I edited, In the Hearts of Famous Hunters, among his father’s books and it was signed by Dick. Bill was nice enough to get in touch and tell me about his connection.

Newspaper reporting/editing, writing an historical fiction novel, the continent of Africa, and a divorce led me to spread my wings and edit books to make a better living. Interestingly enough, Africa has played several pivotal roles in my life. I lived in the North African country of Libya as a teenager and was always intrigued with the history of this ancient continent. Thanks to a new friend who works in Libya several times a year, I have seen photos of our family home location from the 1950s in Tripoli. I’ll write more about that fantastic coincidence soon.

Once single, I was out “among ‘em” and I met an older gentleman, L. Dickson Griffith, in a local Southern California watering hole. He had been in NYC advertising (like a Don Draper on the AMC-TV show “Mad Men”) and went on to work as a technical advisor for Roone Arledge of ABC-TV in organizing and coordinating a TV show, “American Sportsman” that featured American celebrities who hunted big game. The “reality show” (although not known by that designation in those days) would feature actual hunting expeditions, and they’d begin the series in Africa. They were starting the first episode in a camp about 150 miles from Nairobi, Kenya, with actor Robert Stack and General Joe Foss, a WWII Medal of Honor winner and former Governor of South Dakota.

Dick Griffith knew many larger-than-life characters through his own interest and skills in big game hunting. He gathered his interviews and recollections of various hunting trips into a colorful book complete with photos and even fine art paintings of a few wild animals; the leopard on the books cover is by artist Gary Swanson. Dick called the collection of stories In the Hearts of Famous Hunters. Some of the other hunters featured in the book included Roy Rogers, Chuck Yeager, the flyer who broke the sound barrier; and Astronaut Wally Schirra.

Dick Griffith, Author, Hunter, Ad Man

Dick Griffith, Author, Hunter, Ad Man

What a privilege it was for me to be associated with this project, and my name is in the acknowledgements. Later, I helped Dick by editing his fiction novel, Adam’s Horn, which was also set in Africa—Uganda during Idi Amin’s cruel reign.

When we finished the writing and had the hunters’ book published in 1992, Dick Griffith had a book signing party in Westlake Village, and Robert Stack came to celebrate. I still have the beautiful book but not the photo taken with Dick and Robert Stack.

Most books appear on the Internet, and when I first looked for Dick’s two books, but they seemed like lonely sentinels. Open Library had some basic information on In the Hearts of Famous Hunters but no way to purchase it, and Amazon had one copy of Adam’s Horn. I was delighted when Bill found a copy of Dick’s wonderful book. Who knows, there may still be a few out there.

Dick has passed on, but I’m sure he must be hanging out with the souls of the many hunters he interviewed, wrote about, and counted as friends. I will always appreciate the opportunity he gave me to edit his books.

Since Dick Griffith’s book, I connected with another man named Dick, in this case Dick Mawson, who wrote his life story of growing up and living in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa: The Gods Who Fell from the African Sky. He has had such a fascinating life that we finished the first volume this past summer, but there’s a second volume to come. Mawson overcame losing his right foot and ankle at age eleven to eventually become a daring competitor in racing hydroplane boats and later built and raced saloon cars. And that’s just a brief account of his exciting life.

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