John Frederick Walker

2. writing


praise for

A Certain Curve of Horn: The Hundred Year Quest for the Giant Sable Antelope of Angola

“Walker writes with insight and compassion. . . .A Certain Curve of Horn deserves to be ranked with Peter Matthiessen’s classic, The Snow Leopard. It underscores the sanctity of all life, a lesson as important for humanity’s survival as for the giant sable antelope’s.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer

“[A] fascinating account…[of] a rare and endangered mammal that few people outside its homeland have ever heard of… riveting…a wonderfully told story…” —Natural History

“Walker casts a wide and authoritative net in a story that is part rich history of Southern Africa, part natural history of the giant sable, and part journalistic first-person adventure tale.” —Choice

In A Certain Curve of Horn, John Frederick Walker tells the story of one of the most revered and endangered of the regal beasts of Africa: the giant sable antelope of Angola, a majestic, coal-black quadruped with breathtaking curved horns over five feet long.

As he follows the trail of this mysterious animal, Walker interweaves the stories of the adventurers, scientists, and warriors who have come under the thrall of the beast, and how their actions would shape the fate of the giant sable antelope and the history of the war-torn nation that is its only home.

First published in 2002, Walker’s account of his quest for Angola’s legendary animal was called ‘riveting,’ ‘fascinating,’ and ‘compelling’ by reviewers, who compared it to Peter Matthiessen’s classic, The Snow Leopard.

Walker joined the first post-war expedition that found evidence that the iconic creature had survived the country’s horrific 27-year-long civil war, but years passed before it could be photographed—and discovered to be on the brink of extinction.  Now Walker brings the story full circle, taking the reader on a last-chance expedition to find Africa’s most magnificent antelope and experience the heart-pounding conservation triumph of its rescue.

The revised & updated E-book edition is available for purchase at AmazonB&N, Apple, and Kobo.

Listen to an NPR interview with John Frederick Walker.

To read excerpts, please visit Walker’s author’s page at Grove/Atlantic, Inc.


praise for

Ivory’s Ghosts: The White Gold of History and the Fate of Elephants

One of Barnes and Noble’s Best Science and Nature books of 2009

“This superb book chronicles the lust for ivory through its long and dark human history. Importantly, it also relates the tortuous international efforts in recent decades to manage elephants in a shrinking habitat and to control the trade in tusks. Ivory’s Ghosts is essential reading for anyone concerned with conservation and with the tenuous future of one of the most magnificent creatures our earth has ever seen.” George B. Schallerauthor of A Naturalist and Other Beasts

“A riveting glimpse into the secret, brutal, fascinating world of ivory.” —James Mellon, author of African Hunter

“Understanding the importance of the issues [Walker] raises is critical to the survival of more than elephants. In this comprehensive work with a serious message, there is never a dull moment.” —National Geographic Adventure

“An impressively thorough study of ivory’s fascination, the corruption it engenders and the ongoing debate over its ecological impact.” —Kirkus Reviews

“[Walker’s] work delivers an informative, all-around perspective on the elephant’s history at the hands of humans.” —Booklist

“With a mix of appalled testimony and meticulous research, Walker traces the story of ivory from Paleolithic times to the present.”—Publishers Weekly

“[A] tour-de-force examination of the history of ivory…reads like a novel that is impossible to put down.”—Huffington Post

“A sensitive and insightful analysis.”—Natural History

“Lively and erudite”—Boston Globe

“Walker’s in-depth treatise on man’s fascination with ivory is a must-read for anyone who’s been seduced by its cool, smooth feel or awed by the majesty of its source, the elephant.”—The Hunting Report

“Elephants, though, are just one part of John Frederick Walker’s entertaining chronicle….Ivory’s Ghosts admirably tells the story of this enchanting substance while making it clear that ‘as long as there are elephants, there will be ivory. Now, surely, it is ivory’s turn to help ensure that there will always be elephants.’”—Bloomberg

Long before gold and gemstones held allure, humans were drawn to the “jewels of the elephant”—its great tusks. Ivory became the supreme organic treasure, prized throughout the world for its pale, lustrous beauty and ability to be finely carved.

In Ivory’s Ghosts, John Frederick Walker layers rich history and firsthand reportage to tell the fascinating and sometimes savage story of ivory’s enormous impact on both human history and that of its most important source: the majestic African elephant.

Coveted since prehistory, ivory was the master carver’s medium in cultures from ancient Egypt to the industrializing United States. It was used for sacred amulets, classical nudes, intricate Baroque sculptures, Japanese netsuke, piano keys and billiard balls. By the nineteenth century ivory had become the plastic of its age and a global addiction that drove the exploration and exploitation of Africa at immense human and animal cost. Insatiable demand led to the wholesale slaughter of elephants, whose tusks were taken to the African coasts on the shoulders of slaves who were then sold along with the ivory they carried. By the 1980s, organized poaching—carried out with AK-47s—reached record levels in East Africa, provoking an international outcry that led to an ivory trade ban still in effect today.

Yet the ban has failed to stop poaching—or end the bitter, emotional debate over what to do with the legitimate and growing stocks of ever more valuable ivory recovered from elephants that die of natural causes. In Ivory’s Ghosts, John Frederick Walker builds a wrenching—and utterly compelling—argument that it is time to ask whether a controlled return to the ivory trade could help rather than hurt elephants.

A richly detailed account of the troubled relationship between material desire and environmental welfare, Ivory’s Ghosts is a deeply felt examination of both ivory’s past and its uncertain future—the future of elephants themselves.

To listen to the author discussing his book on NPR, click here.

To read a Medill Reports interview with the author, click here.

To order a copy, please click here.

To order an audiobook of Ivory’s Ghosts, please click here.

%d bloggers like this: