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Sunday, September 5, 2021

Hunting Teddy Roosevelt by James A. Ross - Book Tour + Giveaway


Historical Fiction

Date Published: 7/31/2020

Publisher: Regal House Publishing



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.


Excerpt

 Once he has left office [a President] cannot do very much; and he is a fool if he fails to realize it
--Theodore Roosevelt

 

Roosevelt stood at the rail of the SS Hamburg waving to the crowd of well-wishers as the transatlantic liner pulled away from the pier. A reporter’s shout lifted over the noise of the crowd. “Any farewell words for the American people, Colonel?”

Roosevelt laughed. “Not yet!” He turned his attention to the parade of tugs and small watercraft streaming down river alongside the luxury liner, whistles tooting and washdown hoses spraying prismed arcs in all directions. A three-story banner on the river side of the Singer Building wished him a safe return, and a volley of cannon fire from the batteries at forts Hamilton and Wadsworth saluted the German liner as it passed the mouth of the harbor. What a bully send-off from a wonderful people for whom he felt as much love as they seemed to feel for him!

One hand resting on the ship’s rail, he watched the bustling activity in the harbor, inhaled the fresh salty air and allowed it to dissipate the accumulated exhaustion of eight hectic years and a frenzied morning. The journey from the Roosevelt home at Sagamore Hill on Long Island to the Hudson River Terminal at 23rd Street, with well-wishers jamming every carriage, train, ferry and automobile transfer point in between, had been exhausting. But now that the ship was heading out of the harbor, he could feel the fatigue begin to lift and his normal state of exhilaration return. Several of his Dakota Badlands pals had made the trip east to see him off. So had many of his Rough Rider regiment. A fifty-member delegation from the Italo-American Chamber of Commerce had somehow pressed through the crowds to present him with a bronze cup for his help in raising funds for the victims of the Calabrian earthquake. He would have liked to spend more time with them all. But Senator Cabot-Lodge, the French ambassador, and a host of New York politicians had arrived to demand their time as well. The Hearst reporters…well, they had to be entertained, too. He had no answer to their persistent question of whether he was going to run for president again in 1912. But that didn’t stop them.

His nineteen-year-old son, Kermit, stood beside him and held tight to the rail with both hands, adjusting his feet to maintain balance. “Why so glum, Pop?” he asked, wrapping a lean arm affectionately around his father’s shoulder. Trim and dashing in a military coat identical to Roosevelt’s own, except for the insignia of rank, he had somehow managed to retain its brass buttons while the crowd, in its enthusiasm, had stripped Roosevelt bare of his.

He was grateful that his eldest son had agreed to take a year off from Harvard to keep his father company on safari. It would be the young man’s first adult adventure and Roosevelt was eager to witness the growth it might bring. Especially as a growing number of signs seemed to point in another direction. An accomplished sailor, Kermit’s white-knuckle grip on the ship’s rail and occasional unsteadiness were telltale symptoms of too much bon voyage champagne rather than faulty sea legs.

“Not glum, son. Just thoughtful. Following George Washington’s example of not running for a third term was either the noblest thing I’ve ever done or the stupidest. I can’t decide which.” Turning away from the Manhattan skyline, he thought about the changes that would inevitably take place in his beloved country before he would see it again in a year. He hoped they might be for the better, but feared they might not.

Kermit laughed. “Well, getting out of Washington made mother happy. She really missed Sagamore Hill.”

Ah yes. A lively little town with plenty of opportunity for a man to put the powers that God gave him to best use. He and Edith had fought bitterly about his moving their family to Washington after he accepted McKinley’s offer to be his vice president. She missed the social life in New York, and she complained loud and often that Washington was too hot and too provincial. When McKinley was assassinated and Roosevelt became, at age forty-two, the youngest US president ever, she performed her role as First Lady with grace. But she made it plain that she could not wait to get back to New York. Eight years in Washington had been more than enough for Edith.

But what a bully eight years! As president, he had reversed McKinley’s pro-business, high tariff policies in favor of the trust busting, conservation policies of the Progressives. He’d had high hopes, too, of breaking the stranglehold that Carnegie, Morgan and Rockefeller had on American business, and of giving the working man a square deal. But there hadn’t been enough time to get it all done. Eight years was simply not enough. He tried to make Edith understand the necessity of one more term to finish what he’d started, but every time he mentioned it, she threw a hissy fit. She told him plain that she’d done her part for twice as long as he’d promised, and that if he ran again it would be without her.

Before Kermit arrived, he had been gazing out to sea, brooding on one of the few ultimatums he had ever given in to. Not even the most popular president since George Washington could hope to get reelected if his wife took up a separate residence. The Hearst papers would see to that.

He understood Edith’s unhappiness, and he wished there was something he could have done about it. But tarnation! He was president of the most powerful country on the planet, and he’d done marvelous things in eight years! Couldn’t she tolerate the hardship of being First Lady for another four?

The salty breeze on his face and tangy air in his lungs were a welcome distraction from the unease he felt over the long list of things he’d left undone at the end of his term: the Panama Canal was not yet open, business monopolies still maintained a stranglehold on basic industries, a tariff that enriched manufacturers but penalized nearly everyone else needed drastic reform, the army and navy were not yet up to the standard of the great European powers. He had made the public aware of the value of the country’s natural resources, but the exploiters were still running rampant. He was counting on President Taft to finish the job. But he was afraid that Taft, despite his three-hundred-fifty-pound girth, might not be a big enough man for it.

He watched Kermit sway unsteadily at the rails. These were not thoughts he could share with a nineteen-year-old outdoorsman who showed little interest in politics. His eldest child, Alice, had inherited the political gene. It would have been grand if she could have joined them on safari, just as she had on the round the world tour of the Great White Fleet in 1907. What an education that had been for a young woman, and what an adventure! He had hoped she might enter politics on her own someday. But she was married to Senator Longworth now, and her budding sense of adventure had found new territory in the drawing rooms of Georgetown.

Kermit was more of a loner, though very much a man’s man. He had strength, courage, coolness in a crisis, and a gift for friendship and languages. His was the action package, not the political one. Sadly, it came with a growing fondness for drink, reminiscent of his deceased Uncle Elliot. Roosevelt hoped the African adventure might provide Kermit with the opportunity to overcome that weakness, just as in boxing and athletics Roosevelt had found the means to overcome a physical frailty brought on by childhood asthma. His son would have to find his own way to tame his affliction. What better place to start than Africa?

“You could invite some reporters to the captain’s table tonight and ask them what they think of your decision not to run for a third term,” said Kermit, shading his eyes against the ascending rays of the setting sun. “They’ve all got opinions.”

Roosevelt shook his head. “I can’t. I promised President Taft that I’d stay out of politics for a year to give him a chance to be his own man. That’s one of the reasons I decided to make this safari. I have to keep my word.”

“Then invite them to dinner to talk about hunting. You need a party, Dad.”

Roosevelt knew it was his son who needed the party, but he agreed nevertheless. “All right. But only invite one. They hunt in packs, you know. And make sure he knows which end of a gun is which.” 



About the Author

James A. Ross has at various times been a Peace Corps Volunteer, a CBS News Producer in the Congo, a Congressional Staffer and a Wall Street Lawyer. His short fiction has appeared in numerous literary publications and his short story, Aux Secours, was nominated for a Pushcart prize. His debut historical novel, HUNTING TEDDY ROOSEVELT won the Independent Press Distinguished Favorite Award for historical fiction, and was shortlisted for the Goethe Historical Fiction Award. His debut mystery/thriller, COLDWATER REVENGE, launched in April 2021 and is available wherever books are sold. Ross's on-line stories and live performances can be found at: https://jamesrossauthor.com.

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