Monday, June 27, 2005

Not your average fish book: Cardinal Tetras by Dr. Herbert R. Axelrod

What an interesting stack of books I'm wading through tonight... Here's another find, rather unexpected. From the cover, it looks for all the world like a standard 'how to take care of your pet' book from T.F.H. Publications, which does a lot of pet care books. The author is Dr. Herbert R. Axelrod. We've sold a lot of fish care books by Axelrod. The title is Cardinal Tetras, which from the cover photo is a type of fish. So far, no surprises. The copyright is 1980. The ISBN is 0-87666-517-2.

I leaf through the book to get a general idea of condition and to make sure it's not all full of underlining, etc.

Oops. Not a pet care book. It looks more like a 'real-life Indiana Jones-type goes into Brazil in hopes of breaking a monopoly on fish imports into the United States' book. And that's just for starters. Adventure. Travel. Memoirs. A little science. Some history. And, oh, a little bit on fish care, in the form of stories about early attempts to raise and breed cardinal tetras in captivity.

Ah, look, here's a story about the author taking his first trip to Brazil in 1955 to find discusfish (whatever they are), going way, way upriver, not being to find a place to stay, being sent to the church - and finding it is run by a priest who could converse with him in German, and who was a fish hobbyist. What are the chances of being rescued in the back beyond of South America by a priest who has already scoped out the local wild fish scene for potential aquarium fish? So here are two grown men, one in cassock and sandals, one in pants and sneakers, wading out into a river to find fish for local kids to capture for them.

It appears to be an interesting compilation of a book, with a bit of this and a bit of that, loosely mixed. I feel compelled to mention it because the publisher is known for one type of book, and for whatever reason made this one look the same as their usual fare. Even a different title would have helped. You know, something along the lines of 'The Cardinal Tetra Adventures' or 'My forays in the fish business' or 'The ones that didn't get away'. Well, okay, so I'm not hitting home runs with titles off the top of my head. But. Almost anything but simply the name of the fish, please, would have been nice, I think. I wonder how many people who would have enjoyed buying this book when it was in print didn't think to look inside because they weren't fish fanciers interested in that particular type of fish as a pet? A pity. Maybe somebody will retitle it and reissue it for the fans of 'men exploring the jungle' books? Or for fans of 'dueling scientists' books? Just a thought.

Update: There seems to be some question about the authenticity of some of the tales told by Herbert Axelrod. Rats. Leaving open the possibility that this book is about real adventures, I have to admit the strong possibility, given the other claims, that it might contain some 'fish stories' of the other variety (aka fabrications). Rats. I like a good tall tale, but not one passed off as fact.

My thanks to the person who took the time and trouble to bring this to my attention by leaving a comment.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Google Herbert Axelrod. He's a fraud and most likely his story about 'discovering' Cardinal Tetras is a fraud too. Skipped a court hearing to Cuba, jailed in Berlin, extradited to the U.S. on, among several activities, tax fraud charges. Sentenced to a year and a half in prison