Beryl Markham

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Beryl Markham

Signed First Edition “West with the Night” - 1942

Signed first edition, first printing of Beryl Markham’s extraordinary memoir West with the Night, published to popular acclaim in 1942. Signed without inscription on first free endpaper and dated July 1942 on inside cover. Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1942. First American Edition, first printing. Very good condition with facsimile dustjacket.

Beryl Markham (1902-1986) was a British-born Kenyan aviator (one of the first bush pilots), adventurer, racehorse trainer and author. During the pioneer days of aviation, she became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west. She is now primarily remembered as the author of her memoir, West with the Night.

Although the book enjoyed initial critical acclaim and strong sales following its 1942 publication, war-weary readers on both sides of the Atlantic found it lacking sufficient escapism to divert their attention from the world’s clear and present dangers, and the book foundered out of print for four decades—until 1983, when it was “discovered” that no less a critic than Ernest Hemingway had quite favorably praised the book in a 1942 letter to his editor, Maxwell Perkins:

“Did you read Beryl Markham’s book, ‘West with the Night‘? I knew her fairly well in Africa and never would have suspected that she could and would put pen to paper except to write in her flyer’s log book. As it is, she has written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer. I felt that I was simply a carpenter with words, picking up whatever was furnished on the job and some times making an okay pig pen. But [she] can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves as writers…. I wish you would get it and read it because it is really a bloody wonderful book.”

West with the Night is the story of Beryl Markham—aviator, racehorse trainer, beauty—and her life in the Kenya of the 1920s and ’30s. The book is a true classic, one that deserves the same acclaim and readership as the work of her contemporaries Ernest Hemingway, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and Isak Dinesen. If the first responsibility of a memoirist is to lead a life worth writing about, Markham succeeded beyond all measure. Born Beryl Clutterbuck in the middle of England, she and her father moved to Kenya when she was a girl, and she grew up with a zebra for a pet; horses for friends; baboons, lions, and gazelles for neighbors. She made money by scouting elephants from a tiny plane. And she would spend most of the rest of her life in East Africa as an adventurer, a racehorse trainer, and an aviatrix—she became the first person to fly nonstop from Europe to America, the first woman to fly solo east to west across the Atlantic. Hers was indisputably a life full of adventure and beauty.