It’s 1909, and Teddy Roosevelt is not only hunting in Africa, he’s being hunted. The safari is a time of discovery, both personal and political. In Africa, Roosevelt encounters Sudanese slave traders, Belgian colonial atrocities, and German preparations for war. He reconnects with a childhood sweetheart, Maggie, now a globe-trotting newspaper reporter sent by William Randolph Hearst to chronicle safari adventures and uncover the former president’s future political plans. But James Pierpont Morgan, the most powerful private citizen of his era, wants Roosevelt out of politics permanently. Afraid that the trust-busting president’s return to power will be disastrous for American business, he plants a killer on the safari staff to arrange a fatal accident. Roosevelt narrowly escapes the killer’s traps while leading two hundred and sixty-four men on foot through the savannas, jungles, and semi-deserts of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Congo, and Sudan.
Jimmy, quit telling tall tales!” was my mother’s frequent admonition when I was a boy. It took several decades before she begrudgingly accepted that she might have produced a writer and not a future politician. The capitulation took place at my dining table where she and I were listening to her six-year-old grandson practice his newly acquired reading skill by reciting the contents of my junk mail. When he got to a letter from the South Dakota Review and began to read in his hesitant first grader’s voice, “Dear… Mr… Ross. We… are… delighted…” I saw first-hand proof that jaw dropping is not just a figure of speech.
That was more than twenty years ago. Since then, I have been honing my story-telling skills in various formats and venues, including the Rose Bar in Jackson, Wyoming which occasionally bestows a large pizza and a tractor cap to the best story teller of the evening. My seven grandchildren know, too, that “Papa Jim, tell us a story,” is a magic phrase guaranteed to suspend chores and homework for the duration.
Story telling is fun, though it doesn’t always pay the bills. To take care of necessities, I’ve at various times been a Peace Corps volunteer in the Congo, a low-level staffer for a Midwestern Congressman and a three piece suited Wall Street lawyer and deal maker. Hey, it was a living. These days I write from my home in the Teton Valley of Wyoming, where elk and other four-legged residents outnumber the two-legged variety by ten to one, and the patrons of the local cowboy bars appreciate a well-told tall tale.
My short fiction has appeared in various print and online publications including The South Dakota Review, Santa Clara Review, Whiskey Island Magazine, Phantasmagoria, The Distillery. Lost River Lit Mag and Embark. I am a frequent contributor to, and occasional winner of the Jackson, Wyoming live story telling competition, Cabin Fever Story Slam.