by William V. Timmons (Niger 1965–67)
Reviewed by Leita Kaldi Davis (Senegal 1993-95)
“BURMA TIGER FOLLOWS Sergeant Major Michael St. John from Rudyard Kipling’s poem, ‘Mandalay,’ as a series of divinely inspired circumstances thrust him from anonymity into international fame.”
There you have the story line in William V. Timmons’ own words, and an indication of his labyrinthine writing style, as incomprehensible as the print on the back cover, which is pale yellow on pale green and is barely legible with a magnifying glass. Not a good beginning.
Once again we have a book that seems to be a first draft, i.e., devoid of editing — or maybe even thinking, as indicated by phrases such as: “. . . half delirious with fevers well above normal,” and “dozens, perhaps twenty small canoes,” misspellings such as “whicker chairs”, “rueful rouge” (for rogue), and punctuation reminiscent of “Eats, Shoots and Leaves,” referring to pandas. And I’ve never heard people of Burma called “Burmans.”
I think Burma Tiger is supposed to be an adventure story, but I’m afraid I couldn’t get past the awful English and into the story. And now I see that he has three more books on the Peace Corps Worldwide web site. I suspect he is having a great time publishing himself. And to give him the benefit of the doubt, who knows, maybe Burma Tiger will be discovered and head straight for the best-seller list. If that happens, Timmons, along with many other authors, might share Mario Puzo’s lament about The Godfather that if he’d known it was going to be that successful, he would have tried to write it better.
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Leita Kaldi Davis worked for the United Nations and UNESCO, for Tufts’ Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and Harvard University. She worked with Roma (Gypsies) for fifteen years, became a Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal at the age of 55, then went to work for the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Haiti for five years. She retired in Florida in 2002. She has written a memoir of Senegal, Roller Skating in the Desert, and is working on a memoir of Haiti.