"Writers are dreamers. They always want to be somewhere other than where they are," says Nathan Adams. Adams' dreams have taken him just about everywhere, and his cozy Alexandria, Va. home proves it. The brown-stone is decorated with African game trophies, antique spurs, branding irons, bells from tiger hunting in India, banjos and rifles. And there are more souvenirs to come, because 41-year-old hunter, fly-fisherman, ex-vagabond, novelist, sleuth, Reader's Digest associate editor and ex-football player Adams still is chasing his dreams. His most recent trip took him to Saudi Arabia, where he researched a story on what happens to a barrel of oil from the time it is pumped from beneath the desert until it reaches the U.S. consumer.
Adams' stories for SI (God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen, which begins on page 90, and a 1963 piece on marl in fishing off the Kenyan coast) were taken from his African wanderings. As a young salesman, he happened to watch a movie about Beirut and was seduced by the twang of its Eastern music. Adams quit his job, left for Asia and eventually landed in Africa. During 1960-61 he lived in Kenya, fishing and doing elephant-control shooting in the game parks. To support himself, Adams "sort of backed into writing" as a stringer for Reuters and SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and as an advertising copywriter for local hotels and Bush TV.
Tired of "living like a cockroach," he returned to the U.S. in 1967 to publish his successful first novel, I he Fifth Horseman, which is about a German SS man who comes to grips with the horrors he committed during World War II. Since then, Adams has written on topics ranging from the Symbionese Liberation Army and disappearing hitchhikers to trench-coated detectives sniffing out narcotics rings in South America. One of his current projects is a novel involving the CIA and the theft of the Declaration of Independence.
When he is not traveling to faraway places or writing about them, Adams heads for Ennis, Mont. (pop. 400). Someday he plans to build an A-frame there, but for now he hangs out at Ed Curnow's Tackle Shop. It was there that Senior Editor Pat Ryan located Adams to tell him that we would publish God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen. Ryan was told that she could get in touch with Adams by leaving a message at the tackle shop. Although fearing this method might require weeks for a reply from the writer, Ryan called Montana and asked if by any chance Adams was around. "He's standing right here," said Curnow.
In Montana, Adams shoots pool with the locals, hunts with an ex-prize-fighter turned justice of the peace and watches a man named Huckleberry Slowinski shoe horses. And, most of all, he fishes.
Coming down from an angling expedition in the Spanish Peaks of Montana one afternoon, Adams saw Ennis Lake shimmering on the floor of the valley below and was reminded of Lake Sasumua at the edge of Kenya's Great Rift Valley. Years before, he had spent Christmas fishing there with a British companion. From that recollection came his story about the Brown Trout Inn and an English Yuletide celebrated in the bamboo forests of Africa. It was just the kind of scene a writer dreams of.