ADDRESSES: Agent—Author Mail, c/o Carroll & Graf, 245 West 17th St., 11th Fl., New York, NY 10011.
CAREER: Documentary filmmaker and author.
The White Headhunter: The Story of a Nineteenth-Century Sailor Who Survived a Heart of Darkness, Carroll & Graf Publishers (New York, NY), 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: A documentary filmmaker, Nigel Randell turned his storytelling talents to writing The White Headhunter: The Story of a Nineteenth-Century Sailor Who Survived a Heart of Darkness, "a fascinating look at Jack Renton's experience as a castaway in the Solomon Islands during the 19th century," in the words of Academia reviewer Colleen Duggan. Shanghaied in San Francisco in 1868, Renton soon found himself on a guano ship in the South Seas. Managing to jump overboard one night with several companions, he washed up on the island of Malaita. Unfortunately Renton's shipmates were killed by a tribe of headhunters, while Renton himself was taken in by the chief and gradually found a place in the tribe. First treated as a slave, he eventually grew to be a valued member of society, prized for his skills as both a boatmaker and a soldier.
In addition to Renton's own memoir, Randell draws on native oral traditions to recapture the events Renton left out, such as his relationship with a native woman that was omitted because it would have offended Victorian readers and his own participation in headhunting raids. Eventually returned to the company of white men, Renton became a government agent and helped kidnap natives for use on European plantations. He was eventually killed by his victims' relatives, a fact Randell uses as a springboard to describe the brutal European incursion into the South Seas. In praise of The White Headhunter, a Kirkus Reviews contributor praised Randell's work as "a fabulous ethnographic tale inside a larger tragedy of cultural genocide and retaliatory murders."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Geographical, August, 2003, review of The White Headhunter: The Story of a Nineteenth-Century Sailor Who Survived a Heart of Darkness, p. 64.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2003, review of The White Headhunter: The Story of a Nineteenth-Century Sailor Who Survived a Heart of Darkness, p. 956.
Publishers Weekly, August 4, 2003, review of The White Headhunter, p. 69.
Academia Online,http://www.ybp.com/acad/ (September 29, 2004), Colleen Duggan, review of The White Headhunter.*