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The Pigeons and the Witch Doctor: Adventures of a Modern Mapmaker    by Heng Thung order for
Pigeons and the Witch Doctor
by Heng Thung
Order:  USA  Can
Lucky Press, 2003 (2003)
* *   Reviewed by Marian Powell

In 1956, Heng Thung was a young man with a dream of becoming a photographer and a world traveler. Awarded a scholarship to Cornell, he fell in love with aerial photography and has pursued it since then, sometimes at the risk of his life.

Like most people, I'd heard of aerial photography but had no clear idea of it beyond the sense that it involved taking pictures from on high. This book goes into detail about the difficulties, dangers and rewards of the profession. The chapter titles give a good sense of the scope of the book. Here is a random sampling: Oil Exploration in Pakan Baru Sumatra, Aerial Photo Research in Thailand, Poppy Survey in Laos, Mapping Tanzania, In Search of Diamonds, Land Mines and Refugees, The Aerial Mapping of Cambodia.

The author's career took him all over the world, often under very challenging circumstances. One difficulty he ran into continuously was bureaucracy. He relates some experiences that were very frustrating but also some that were rewarding. This is an interesting book but it would have been more interesting if it had been twice as long. Of course, that's the ultimate compliment one can pay a writer. As can be seen by the chapter titles, a wide variety of projects are described, but briefly.

Often one feels that a single chapter should have been expanded into an entire book. As it is, The Pigeons and the Witch Doctor leaves the reader with the feeling of having been given a quick overview of a fascinating life and subject.

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