Thursday, December 08, 2016

Book Review: This Business of Exploring by Roy Chapman Andrews

This Business of Exploring, by Roy Chapman Andrews,1935 Putnam's Sons, 288 pages.

I first read This Business of Exploring about fifty years ago, when I was attending high school in Hayward, Wisconsin.  The book is a classic and deserves far more attention than it now receives. Libraries are discarding older books for newer ones. My brother found the copy we both had read at a library book sale. He picked it up for a dollar or two. It is in an honored place in his collection.

The book covers Roy Chapman Andrews explorations in central Asia and outer Mongolia from 1921 to 1930. Andrews was working for the Museum of Natural History in New York.  He made world news with his discoveries, including the first dinosaur eggs.  The book gives a rich texture to not only the troubled times in China, but to the American experience in New York City. 

In the picture of Andrews on the frontispiece, he is standing next to a riding camel  with a long barreled Smith & Wesson revolver in an open top holster and gun belt, worn cross draw style.  On page 28 he mentions his .38 revolver. It probably was chambered in the popular .38 Special cartridge.

China was infested with bandits and warlords at the time. Chapman and his companions were routinely armed as they did their explorations.  From This Business of Exploring, page 21:
Charlie selected one fellow who was standing silhouetted against the sky, and I lined my sights on another just in front of him. I was shooting a Savage .250-3000 with soft nosed bullets, and Charlie had a Ross .280. As our rifles crashed both men crumpled.
The men had already attempted to kill Andrews and Charlie. Their car had bogged down in soft sand, so they could not drive away.

A Savage .250-3000 occupied my fathers gun rack just feet from where I was reading Andrew's account.

The book is more than a look into China's troubled past and glimpses of American society in the 1920's and 30's.  It is a finely crafted first hand account of high adventure.  Andrews is careful to quote Stefansson's dictum " Adventures are a sign of incompetence".  I first heard it as "An adventure is when the plan fails".  Yet in spite of Andrews obvious competence, he has plenty of adventures.

Guns are routinely mentioned. They were absolutely necessary for defense and, to a lesser degree, for hunting to supplement food supplies.

If you cannot find a copy of This Business of Exploring at your library, used ones are available.  Originals can command high prices.  I managed to find one in Germany.  On the legend of the map, you can see that it is stamped by the War Prisoner's Aid of the YMCA in Geneva, Switzerland.  It was sent there during World War II, as indicated by the U.S. Censor stamp in the upper right corner.

Map inside the covers of This Business of Exploring

Reprints are available at Amazon in paperback for $24.97, and on the Kindle platform for $9.97.

Many think that Roy Chapman Andrews was the inspiration for Indiana Jones. There are many similarities, but scholars believe that Andrews inspired iconic explorer characters in 1930's fiction and films, which then became the basis for the Indiana Jones character.

There are many dangerous places to travel in the world. In the 1920's and 30's, it was understood that prudent men traveled armed.

I highly recommend this book.  It is an easy read, exciting, entertaining, and educational.

©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

Gun Watch

1 comment:

JoeThePimpernel said...

Found it online. It's long out of copyright, so there are no moral issues involved.