Paradise With Nightmares
HEAVEN HAS CLAWS, Adrian Conan Doyle; Random House, 242 pp.; Illustrated; $3.50.
Some take arms against the world's sea of troubles; some take flight. But among those who turn heel on their fellows to beat the wild bush for an untouched utopia, pausing only to write a book so the world they seek to escape can support them, few have told their stories as well as Adrian Conan Doyle.
A.C.D., as he pleases to be called, is the spawn of the man who created Sherlock Holmes, but where Holmes loved the world and its evils as a fit battleground for his mind, A.C.D. despises it. He set out to seek peace and returned with an account of a war that puts human efforts to shame--that of nature in the altogether.
The group of little known islands off the forgotten West Coast of Africa was the perilous paradise he chose. Biggame shark fishing was the excuse he used. He brought back the trophies of a killer of killers and the memories of scenes and experiences so indescribably beautiful he has trouble describing them himself.
The book has no theme and no plot. It is a loosely chronological log of a year's journey into a wasteland of waters, in, over, and around which nature has run wild. Here and there is a condemnation of the world's race for riches, occasional criticisms of Whitehall, its taxes and its colonial policy, a warning of the growth of Indian influence along the African shore of the Indian Ocean, and a perceptible shudder at memories of a normal life in modern civilization. A.C.D. is looking for something. He says it is peace, reason, and security. But a man who describes so feelingly the beautiful brutality of nature unshackled is not interested in peace. A man whose passions run so high he strikes natives in his anger at the sea is not concerned with reason. A man who sets out to battle demons of the deep which out-weigh and outwit him, with only his wife and bull-dog for company, cares little for security. He is an adventurer, and his tale is one of adventure.
A.C.D. is also a sensualist who must feed on life and action. His book is strong when it describes his meals. It is weak between feedings.
Like his father, however, he handles words well and has produced a magnificent if frightening volume. Through his keen senses, the armchair adventurer is plunged into a world that out-wonders Wonderland. To many his paradise may seem to be somewhat south of Dante's ninth level of hell and his philosophy may grate. But they will be amazed and relieved to go back to the headlines and petty disturbances of man, to wait in the quiet bliss bombs and bars until A.C.D. returns to tell of his next foray. If he bothers to return at all