Tiger Wars: The shocking story of Joe Exotic, the Tiger King vs Carole Baskin

The global smash-hit Netflix documentary mini-series Tiger King introduced viewers to the weird, crazy and chaotic life of private zoo owner and big cat breeder Joe Exotic, and his war against Carole Baskin. Baskin, who runs the Big Cat Rescue in Florida, a sanctuary for abused and abandoned wild cats, waged a long legal battle to have Joe’s exotic animal park in Oklahoma shut down for the maltreatment of his animals. But Carole had her own dark past and Joe wasn’t going down without a fight; he responded by plotting to have her murdered. Tiger Wars delves deeper into this stranger-than-fiction tale and tells the shocking story of this big cat war, the cult-like characters involved and the spiral of obsession that landed Joe Exotic in jail and exposed the dark heart of America’s big cat obsession.

My thoughts: Having missed the documentary Tiger King, I decided to read this book on the situation. I did see the documentary with Rick Kirkham, former Inside Edition journalist and crack cocaine addict, titled “The Truth Behind Joe Exotic: The Rick Kirkham Story”, which was a trip in itself. Rick split with Joe as his Producer after he angered Joe apparently. The production building with all of the equipment mysteriously burned down a couple of nights later after Joe changed the locks and had the only key. Kirkham had been going to produce a reality series on Joe, despite his growing reservations. The more he got to know Joe and the more he began to see how he operated, the less he wanted to do with him. The fire ended any reality show hopes, as the equipment of both men was destroyed in the fire.

This book finally turned the spotlight on Joe Schreibvogel for me, aka Joe Exotic, among many other aliases he used. It shared about his earlier years, his parents, his late brother, and how he got started with his zoo where it was in Wynnewood, Oklahoma. It also explains Carole Baskin and her place, the Big Cat Rescue in Florida, and how she and Joe came to have such a huge dislike for each other, and the way each  runs their big cat places. Joe has a pretty awful reputation and deservedly so, and Carole is horrified by some of the cruel things she has heard about that have happened at his place that he’s done. The battle of words online becomes personal and threats are made and it really becomes ugly. Then the lawsuits start. But Joe has other problems…lots of them. And they threaten to blow his world apart at any moment, that’s just how he lives. This is a crazy book that makes for interesting reading, for sure about the bizarre world of exotic animals in the United States. I found it fascinating and flew through it in an evening. Advanced electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, the author Al Cimino, and publisher in return for my honest review.

** Just a note, you may also want to check out the show on Joe Exotic and Rick Kirkham if you can find it on Investigation Discovery, or elsewhere, it was fascinating as well, it’s titled “The Truth Behind Joe Exotic: The Rick Kirkham Story,”. It was after Rick had lived at the zoo with Joe for about a year. Plus there’s one he did of his own life of making video diaries. It’s called ”TV Junkie”.  I found the title info on IMDB.



Publisher: White Hart Books – 288 pages
Publication: June 18th, 2020
My rating: 4/5 Stars

The Author– Al Cimino is a journalist and author who specializes in history and crime. His books include Great Record Labels, Spree Killers, War in the Pacific, Omaha Beach, Battle of Guadalcanal, and Battle of Midway.

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