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The Man-Eaters of Tsavo

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  2,528 ratings  ·  164 reviews
St. Martin's is proud to present a new series of the greatest classics in the literature of hunting and adventure, chosen from the personal library of writer and big game hunter Peter Hathaway Capstick. These showcase volumes will once again make available the true masterpieces of Africana to collectors, armchair hunters, sportsmen, and readers at large.

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Hardcover, 384 pages
Published December 15th 1985 by St. Martin's Press (first published 1907)
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Feb 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
An account by Colonel John Henry Patterson of his time in Africa - while I expected a focus on Tsavo, it's in fact only about the first third of the book that deals with his time there and travails brought on by the titular pair of man-eating lions.

Written around the dawn of the 20th century (covering events from 1899 onwards), it's absolutely a product of it's time. "Natives" are described just as many of the game animals, and range from "low sorts" to those who welcome missionaries and as a
Jessica Courter
Mar 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: histories
Of the last 8 books I've read, 6 of them I have given a 5 star rating, therefore when I picked up this book to read, I resolved, whatever it was like, not give it a 5 star rating. If I did, my friends were going to think I have no discernment and simply love everything I last read. . . However, there is no way I can give this book a simple 4 star rating. No, it's five star and deserves every one of them. The Man-Eaters of Tsavo is a beautiful recount of John Patterson's time in East Africa. ...more
K.J. Charles
The account of a big-game hunter and builder of the Mombasa railway, Col Patterson, who was also the guy who took on the notorious man-eating lions of Tsavo. These two lions are possibly the biggest man eaters in history, killing maybe 140 people and bringing the railway construction to a halt because of their nightly attacks on the workers' camps, and by Patterson's account were near-supernaturally cunning and deadly. A fabulous story, even with Patterson's truly weird decision to pause the ...more
Roy Lotz
Dec 13, 2013 rated it liked it
The first half of this book is great. The second half is both boring and disturbing. Let me explain.

The first half consists of Pattersons description of the title story, his battles with two man-eating lions in Tsavo. Its really incredible that this happened; I thought that it was just a myth that lions could acquire a taste for human flesh. One suspects that Patterson could have been exaggerating, but the style of the book is so plain and direct that he comes across as honest, even humble. I
Nov 10, 2013 rated it liked it
I first came to the topic of the Tsavo man-eaters via the movie called "The Ghost and the Darkness", which is very loosely based on this book here. The movie went more towards action while the events in the book probably would have been better adapted into a thriller or maybe a light horror movie.
So when I read this book and heard the author's own account of the man-eaters I must say I was pleasantly surprised, and kind of disappointed in the movie. Especially since the lions in the book looked
Sep 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
After visiting the Field Museum in Chicago and seeing the pelts from the two infamous lions, The Ghost and The Darkness, I was struck by truly how huge these lions must have been. This is not only a record of an apparently unique natural incident of two lions which appeared to deliberately stalk humans and drag them back to their den to devour, but it is also an example of Victorian colonial expansion coming into conflict with the natural world.

The book is out of print and I had some trouble
Jan 06, 2015 rated it it was ok
Mildly interesting diary of some after work hunting by John Henry Patterson.

Honestly, I would have never of bothered with this if it weren't for the movie The Ghost and The Darkness. Needless to say, I was a little surprised at the difference from book to screen. I shouldn't have been, but was for some reason.

All in all, it was interesting enough, but I noticed in another person's review that they didn't think JHP had a respect or love for animals that other Big Game Hunt writers did. I kind
Aug 01, 2011 rated it liked it
An interesting book, particularly when looked at from a historical perspective. The film "The Ghost and the Darkness" is based on this book, in which the author talks about his hunting adventures in 19th century British East Africa. The title is a bit deceptive - only about a third or so of the book is actually spent talking about the infamous man-eating lions; the rest are accounts of the author's hunts in Africa. For anyone who does read this, I urge them to do so with the context of time in ...more
Salem Lorot
Jul 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, africa
It was a beautiful experience to travel back in time more than 100 years ago in Kenya when Kenya-Uganda railway was being built. I got to witness the helplessness and bravery in dealing with the man-eating lions of Tsavo and hunting expeditions by Patterson and others.

I could not agree with certain things but in general, reading this book was enjoyable.
Nov 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A reasonably good and interesting memoir about hunting wild animals in East Africa. John Henry Patterson became famous for killing the two man-eating lions of Tsavo, who are now on display in the Chicago Field Museum. Only the first half of this book is about the Tsavo lions, though; the second half is about his hunting other animals such as rhinos, etc.

Patterson seemed like a pretty likeable guy to me, modest, and not very racist by late 19th-century British Empire standards. The book made me
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
The only reason I picked up this book because I was told the movie was exceptionally good and it was worth the read. But the book, in the end, was rather a disappointment. It was more like a narrative style of writing without any focused storyline attached to it.
There were bits of mind capturing moments which describes some leadership qualities of the writer, but other than that, the book was not so captivating.
And this is why I believe some spice elements needed to be injected into the movie
Dave Mansker
Feb 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
I loved this book, it was nice to read from the viewpoint of someone living in the era and not a modern era writer's judgements thereof. The story seems nearly incredible, yet actually happened. Those familiar with the movie "The Ghost and the Darkness" will be familiar with a part of this story, but half the book deals with happenings after the events of that story. This is the book that inspired Theodore Roosevelt to go on African safari after he was out of office.
Nov 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Man Eaters Of Tsavo is about a man named john patterson who is working on a railroad across Africa. This man was transferred to kenya from Mombasa to build a train track across a river. Patterson (also the author of the book) landed in a very beautiful place of kenya. From there he took a long train ride to to his living place for the time being. when he gets to tanzania he discovers the man eating tigers. In the book it exclaims that the tigers had such rough tongues that it could lick a ...more
Royal Hinshaw
Sep 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
An interesting book. While the famous man-eaters are the centerpiece of the book, there are other tales involving lions as well, some quite chilling. On the other hand, a good deal of the book is concerned with his hunting trips which he assumes his audience is most interested in. There are also his impressions of the country and its people as well as stories of dealing with his labor force which is primarily Indian. Unsurprisingly, some of his views here have not aged well. Patterson displays a ...more
Oct 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book The Man-Eaters of Tsavo is an amazing story written by J.H Patterson in the year of 1907. The book is about when the people of Tsavo (135+ men) were building a bridge across the Tsavo river. There were two male African lions who were in the area, to find out the rest you will have to read the book. The book was written very well and thoughtfully, and the author used very appropriate and advanced vocabulary throughout the story. In this book there are some twist that were not very ...more
Oct 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Took this after reading Jim Corbett's omnibus.
This book also gives various accounts of thrilling encounters with the maneaters here the maneaters being two lions which killed more than 1000 people. J H Patterson has beautifully described east Africa where he was in charge of the railway construction at the time when the man eaters wrecked havoc among Indian coolies and natives who worked in the construction. The description of the maneaters are very much enough to understand why they were
Feb 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
I always rate my books against other books in the same genre. So for instance I might give a horror novel 4 stars and a classic of literature 3 stars, but Im not comparing the two. So I give this 4 stars against other travelogue / memoirs written in the early 20th century/late 19th century.

The book is surprisingly readable for a memoir written by a Victorian era explorers, and the tale of his knight like quest against the Tsavo man eaters is inspiring. I often wish Id been alive when most of the
Kaushik Samanta
Nov 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
In the year 1898, two man-eating lions 🐯 terrorised the land of Tsavo🌄🌿, killing over 100 men in a span of a year. They were so dreaded by the locals that they were believed to be devils in the animals' skin.
The Man-Eaters of Tsavo is a thrilling encouter of Col. John Henry Patterson 🔫 with two fierce lions. 🐯🐯
Then an engineer engaged on the construction of the Uganda Railways 🚂, Col. J. H. Patterson managed to kill the beasts with shear courage and fine huntsman skills.
Pj Anderer
Stumbled upon a version of this for free on wiki source and decided to read it once I decided it was the complete book. A straightforward telling of the encounter with the lions that are the subject of the movie 'The Ghost and the Darkness.' Perhaps justified as the lions were attacking the camp, the further hunting in the book seemed a bit unnecessary. Interesting historical sketches including meeting the Masai named Lenana, after whom the point on Mt Kenya is named and descriptions of Nairobi ...more
John Nondorf
Apr 17, 2019 rated it liked it
I've seen the Tsavo lions at the Field Museum several times, but only recently learned of their history. I wanted a first person account and Patterson tells the tale well. However, the man-eaters are dispatched about 1/2 way through this book and the bulk of the remainder consists of trophy hunting stories. I'm not a fan of killing for sport--and with the hindsight of many of Patterson's quarries becoming endangered--the second half of the book was a great disappointment. While Patterson is ...more
Trevor Nichols
Jul 16, 2019 rated it liked it
A decent read about two man eating lions that terrorized railroad builders in Tsavo Kenya. This is written by John Patterson and tells his perspective of the lions and how he managed to end their reign of terror. The book is really two parts, the first is his story of how he dealt with the two cunning lions who prefered human meat, the second is about his big game hunting exploits throughout Africa afterwards. I could have gone without the second part of the book, but there was some interesting ...more
Matt Allhands
Alright - I love this book. It is the source material for the 9o's film "The Ghost and The Darkness" but the book extends far longer than just the bit about the two lions. JH Patterson (an engineer, and big-game hunter) describes his involvement in the Kenya-Uganda Railroad and the hunting expeditions he took during his free time. Don't misunderstand my interest here, the backdrop of British imperialism provides an unfortunate setting to this book (to say the least), but Patterson's own ...more
Matthew Dambro
Jan 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful story of a railroad engineer building the railway from Mombasa to Nairobi in 1898 and 1899. It is full of adventure and the unspoken belief that the sun never set on the British Empire. He killed man eating lions to allow the railroad to be built. Adventure was an accepted part of a man's life and was sought out and not shunned. Men like Col. Patterson was the heart and soul of the Empire. He did not apologize nor did he feel the need to defend his belief system. We have fallen a ...more
Jacob Barker
Jan 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was excited for this book. I love the movie The Ghost and The Darkness and I wanted to hear the real story. Im sure thats how most people came across this book. I liked the story about the lions. I also liked the old timey adventure. But the rest of the stories were pretty much senseless killing of endangered animals. Saying that though, I get that it was a different time. Thats just how things were. I was going to go three stars until I thought about it that way. It really was a good book if ...more
Apr 04, 2018 rated it liked it
The first third deals with the title characters, two lions preying on railway workers, and the authors efforts to stop their reign of terror. This was the basis for numerous films including the Ghost in the Darkness, and is an effectively tense adventure. The second two thirds lose focus, and are a collection of narratives based around slaughtering random animals for fun, and less than inspiring characterizations of the locals - it essentially becomes two different books. One that can be enjoyed ...more
Diane Dickinson
Not as good as expected.

I saw the movie version of this. It was very intense and quite frightening. I found the book disappointing. It was pretty much the same story as the movie, but just lacked the fear factor. BTW I actually saw the two lions in the Field museum in Chicago. They were a bit ragtag and moth eaten. Apparently they had been made into rugs and later fashioned for display in the museum.
Gautam Valiveti
Aug 16, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Michael Doherty
Jun 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Two lions kill 130 people in 9 months...enter John Henry Patterson. Interesting read in understanding East Africa circa 1898 through the eyes of a pragmatic railroad builder and hunter. Back then Nairobi was a couple thousand people. Interesting dynamic too- mix of Hindus, Maasai, Askari, British, Swahili. Probably was edited to appeal to bwanas, Teddy Roosevelt apparently loved this...

Todd Martin
Jul 04, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history, outdoors
If you were looking for the literary equivalent of this cartoon:

The Man-Eaters of Tsavo is your book.

I suppose the book has its place as a kind of time-capsule depicting Victorian attitudes and conditions in Africa at the turn of the 20th century, but read with todays sensibilities its pretty appalling.
P.S. Winn
Oct 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing story when Lieutenant Colonel Patterson heads to Africa to help build a bridge. Patterson loves Africa and is just excited to be in the country. That is, until two lions begin attacking in the area. The two lions work together, something unusual, as is, the amount of dead bodies piling up. This is a unbelievably a true story and is also one not to miss.
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Lieutenant-Colonel John Henry Patterson, DSO, known as J.H. Patterson, was an Anglo-Irish soldier, hunter, author and Zionist, best known for his book The Man-Eaters of Tsavo (1907), which details his experiences while building a railway bridge over the Tsavo river in Kenya in 1898-99.

Although he was himself a Protestant, he became a major figure in Zionism as the commander of both the Zion Mule

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