At least that's the way I remember things, but my memory isn't quite as sharp these days as it once was. I enjoyed reading the book again, though more from the perspective of revisiting a past pleasure than it being a particularly gripping book. I remember taking it into secondary school with me one day and reading it in one of the annexe huts at the back end of the 'Old Block', but whether I'd started the book prior to then is now beyond my ability to recall with any certainty. (Though in memory I was back in that classroom when I started reading it again, if that counts for anything.)
As an aside, the teacher in that hut once said an interesting thing to me, though I couldn't say whether it was on that day or another one. "Gordon, you can tell you're an artist, because of your handwriting. You've probably got the best handwriting in the school." I find that interesting because I'd also been specifically commended for my handwriting in my two primary schools, so that made my ability to produce pleasing penmanship unanimous. Perhaps I was destined to be a calligraphic artist from an early age, eh?
(Fairness demands I mention the fact that, when I later changed my style to using loops in my writing in the way that my mother did, another teacher said "Considering you're so good at drawing, it's surprising that your handwriting is so terrible." I soon reverted to my previous style.)
Anyway, back to the gorillas. In the late '70s I bought The Coral Island by the same author, published in 1857, four years before The Gorilla Hunters (which featured the same three main characters as the first book, but older). Again, I no longer recollect (at the moment of typing, maybe it'll come back to me) whether I happened upon The Coral Island by chance, or specifically acquired it because I'd read its 'sequel' several years before. I'd have to re-read 'Coral' before I could tell you if it's as good as I remember it to be, but my general impression is that it was superior to 'Hunters'.
(Interestingly, R.L. Stevenson was so impressed by 'Coral' that he based features of Treasure Island on parts of it.)
The word 'nigger' (singular and plural) is used quite profusely in 'Hunters' (which is set mainly in the African jungle), but not necessarily in an intentionally insulting or demeaning way, and certainly not in a way which suggests that Ballantyne may have been a racist. In fact, I could detect no negative attitude towards Negroes in general, and the three white protagonists seem to have a fond and respectful regard for the tribes (and certain individuals) they encounter. The book was written in 1861, so is obviously a product of its time, but probably best not to read it if you're easily offended by the language of a vanished age.
Anyway, to round this off (you'll no doubt be glad to hear), I saw a copy of the book with the dust-jacket I remember on ebay and bought it yesterday (the book, not ebay), so it's hopefully winging its way to me as I type. That's the seller's photo at the top of the post, but I'll replace it with a scan of the cover when the book arrives. (It'll be good to be reunited with yet another aspect of my past.) Anyone else ever read The Gorilla Hunters? If so, what was your impression of it? Hit or miss?