Dark Safari

by John Bierman. Knopf, $24.95. Henry Morton Stanley, remembered, to his considerable chagrin, as the man who presumed it was Dr. Livingstone, was the son of a Welsh minx named Betsy Parry and a village drunk named John Rowlands— or possibly of some other man entirely. Neither—or none—of these parents cared a hoot about the boy. His adult identity was entirely his own invention, and according to his biographer “even in late middle age, full of honors,” he “continued to concoct pathetic lies and Mittyesque fantasies” to compensate for the emotional deprivations and social humiliations of his youth. Eccentric mendacities aside, he did much more than locate Livingstone. He was an indefatigable explorer whose prowlings in Central Africa provided valuable information about that then unmapped area and whose adventures, well presented by Mr. Bierman, make exciting reading. One can wish, however, that the author had resisted the current biographical fashion of seeking homosexual inclinations in any male subject given to long travels without discernible female company, and doing so without any credible evidence for such a bias. Most readers are capable of drawing their own conclusions in such cases.