1920’s– “LIONS vs THE CAMERA MAN”
Last week we considered the fate of lions in the colony and learned that, since people came from afar expecting to see them, they were not classed as vermin and allowed to be slaughtered indiscriminately. Proof of the world’s fascination with the King of beasts appeared in the paper earlier that same year – specifically, the April 30, 1921 issue of The Leader of British East Africa.
Many readers already know of Martin and Osa Johnson, the American explorers and film makers from Kansas, but before they came to Africa there was another American making motion pictures in Kenya; H. A. Snow, naturalist and leader of the Oakland Museum Expedition.
Unlike the Johnsons, who hunted mainly for food and if needed to defend themselves, Snow was set on not only making a movie but in bringing back a complete collection of mammals for the Oakland (CA) museum. The newspaper described him as a “bluff, straightforward American (a deadly accurate shot with his rifle and a man rendered fearless through long and close touch with wild animals combined with the enthusiasm of the collector and film-maker for really unusual stunts).”
The article continued to tell the tale in Snow’s own words. He said that he had a camera man on the Athi plains while Snow went out in a Ford automobile to “beat up the animal life in front of the blinds” when he spied a Grant’s Gazelle four- hundred yards off. He shot it with his rifle, killing it. When they “humped in the gazelle and started the car,” Snow found a lioness one-hundred yards from the car and eyeing him. She immediately dropped low into the grass to hide.
Snow rode in the car at thirty mph hoping to surprise the lioness and shoot her. But when they rounded a hill crest, two lions rose from the grass; a male and a female. “I put the car into neutral, allowing the motor to run, took up my gun and blazed away. The shaking of the car put me off, and I missed the animal and the male cleared.” Snow continued shooting and hit the male on the run, but not fatally. Both lions turned and charged. “They came at me six feet apart. I fired the last shot in my gun and again missed. I had no time to load, and the animals were almost on me so I crashed the car into gear and tried to get away.”
One of the cats (the male) got in front of the car and leaped in. There was no wind screen to stop him either. Snow swung himself and the car to the side and the lion landed on the back of car and fell off. For five hundred yards the two lions chased Snow as he drove away. Just when he thought he was free, he “hit a rock in the long grass and stalled the motor.” That’s when snow discovered the male ten feet behind him. Snow grabbed his rifle and the lion fled into the tall grasses. Snow cranked up the car and drove back to camp where he collected his son, Sidney, to help him kill the wounded male. After an hour of searching, they found the pair, killed them then killed a second lioness that charged. “The car which still shows the blood marks where the lion jumped on the back and rolled off, is being fitted in Nairobi with a crude cage.” He hopes to be able to fire from the top of the cage leaving the cameraman (his son) in safety in the cage.
Even when people came to film lions, the beasts came off badly for it. I doubt the cats took much consolation in knowing that Snow had to pay for the privilege . Snow’s film’s which he had already developed would be shown at the Theatre Royal next week.
Quotes and images taken from The Leader of British East Africa, April 30 (weekly), 1921.
By the way, The Crocodile’s Last Embrace received a starred review by Publishers’ Weekly who called it “rip-roaring.” Romantic Times gave it 4 Stars and called it “Enormously fun” and Library Journal’s starred review stated “Do not miss this one.”
And Mark of the Lion is now available in the U.K. via Piatkus Books. Stalking Ivory and The Serpent’s Daughter will soon follow.
Next week: SNOW’S FILMS:
1) Does mystery have to equal murder? I weigh in with the Suspense Sirens on their blog posting at http://bit.ly/cpprpx
2) Interested in some insight into what makes me and Jade tick? Go to SCENE OF THE CRIME http://bit.ly/ao2gjg for an interesting interview at a great website by author J. Sydney Jones.
3) CAN’T GET TO ONE OF MY BOOK EVENTS? YOU CAN SEE PART OF ONE HERE courtesy of Mr. Patrick Balester. http://bit.ly/a5wNIn
NOTE: These blogs are meant to give some insight into the life and times of my fictional character, Jade del Cameron. Jade’s mystery adventures take place in post WWI Africa. To date they are: Mark of the Lion, Stalking Ivory, and The Serpent’s Daughter, and The Leopard’s Prey, Treasure of the Golden Cheetah and THE CROCODILE’S LAST EMBRACE. An excerpt and information on ordering signed copies is available at the website: www.suzannearruda.com. Follow short updates on http://twitter.com/SuzanneArruda and on facebook to http://www.facebook.com/pages/Suzanne-Arruda-Mystery-Writer/165784103431688?ref=ts
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