PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 June, 2010, 12:00am

by Wilbur Smith
Pan MacMillan HK$104

Wilbur Smith: a name that conjures images of barren African landscapes, fearless hunters with rippling muscles and trousers, vicious wild beasts on the prowl, and even wilder women doing much the same - only in very tight and slightly soiled jodhpurs. Assegai is prime Wilbur. Our hero is Leon Courtney. Tough and honourable, Leon is also prone to bouts of unedifying emotion. 'S{-*}{-*}{-*} and corruption,' he exclaims, referring to the slaughter of an English family by a tribe of Nandi warriors. In less than 50 pages, Leon and his Maasai sidekick, Manyoro, have sent the Nandi packing, been shot (Manyoro), carried across the bush (Manyoro) and saved by a maternal witch-doctor (Manyoro again). Dismissed from the army for his recklessness, Leon becomes a big-game hunter, attracting the likes of Teddy Roosevelt to his safaris. He is an even bigger hit with Germans - almost literally in the case of a princess who forces him to ride one of her 'plump handmaidens' around her tent. But there is also action of more serious import, as Britain and Germany rehearse their first European war in Africa. Silly, gripping and immensely enjoyable, Assegai is Wilbur Smith all over.