Book Reviews

Having started young Bell is only in his early twenties when he sets out to make his fortune as an ivory hunter. He'd had already tried his hand at being a professional meat hunter in the Klondike and Lion culler during the expansion of the railways across Uganda where the Government had offered a reward for every lion killed within a mile on either side of the railway. Boyhood dreams of adventure not yet sated, and a young mans dreams of hard cash drew him to try his hand providing ivory for the london trade. Risking all during sixteen and a half years of long safari's off the edge of the map, in the very last days of Africa before the Europeans.

As is usually the case with the people who get truly remarkable results Bell approaches the whole enterprise in a totally different way to his contemporaries. Carrying his own rifle, living entirely on local foods, and importing a pair of Canadian canoes to explore uncharted river courses. While his fellow Europeans stride across the continent with the arrogance of pseudo-gods, Bell and his companions tread a lot lighter, with a mixture of humility and cunning, he's courting the local support he needs as a matter of great urgency. Calling himself by the name the locals have for him Longelly-nyung (Red Man). Seeking to present himself as someone benign, who just happens to be passing through, and if anyone would be good enough to point him in the right direction, as an almost endless source of free food for those that help.  Bell is part adventurer and part psychologist. With balls of steel and an eye to the main chance.

And so we became friends I was not going through the blood-brotherhood business, with it's eating of bits of toasted meat smeared with each others blood, sawing in two living dogs or nonsense of that kind. I took his hand and wrung it hard, and had it explained to him that amongst us that was an extraordinarily potent way of doing it. That seemed to satisfy the old boy, for the act of shaking hands was as strange to him as the act of eating each others blood is to us. 

Here in old Blighty the term 'poacher' is loaded with very different resonance's to the US of A, here there is a long tradition of the peasant taking a few of the land owners animals for the pot, and the poacher is a kind of rural anti-hero specialising in hunting with extreme stealth.

I slowly, very slowly slid my gun into position, eased off the safety, took aim and fired! 'Crack!' went the gun and 'Daylight!' went the scene as lights came on in three different positions. 'Police!' Whether it was just a fluke, a coincidence, or whether I had become too much a creature of habit and had gone over there too often on the same night of the week I will never know, but what I did know was that these coppers' meant business and had been in wait for me and the chase was now on! MORE HERE

True Grit A Book Review By Roald Dahl

The book is pretty blog-ish it reads like someone's diary that's been edited by someone else, which is what it is. The premiss is a simple one - a chap works in woodland management and spends a lot of time alone in the woods with his rifle stalking Roe and Fallow deer. It's such a fulfilling job that at one point he reveals that he actually has a permission where he leaves his employers rifle at home and takes his own to sit in a high seat for shits and giggles outside of work time. That's it in a nutshell; he REALLY loves his job and as he's been doing it a while has a hooj knowledge of the flora and fauna of the woodlands he 'works' in. Lucky fella. MORE

Not a hunter or fisherman, but a total card, and some spinner of yarns....
'A Short Walk In The Hindu Kush' is one of the greatest travel books ever written and how its written. Newby conjures up the droll gentleman adventurer better than anyone, with the notion of adventure as a pursuit anyone could take up as an alternative to say, playing bridge or stamp collecting.
Newby could never have been mistaken for an ordinary man, not even at a hundred yards. His youth was full of high adventure; leave private school, work aboard a four-masted ship, win boxing matches against other crew members, serve in the special boat service (the SAS without the shoot-and-tell autobiographies) taken prisoner in WWII, escapes, betrayed, recaptured, meets Wanda, after the war returning to Italy to see the people who had sheltered him and while he's there he marries the stunning Wanda.
Surely this would be enough to convince anyone that they had a certain something. Something, which should be listened to. Followed even. But somehow he found himself working in woman's fashion, a field he latter admitted that he was totally unsuited for and had been told he was unsuited to. Daily. For ten years.
During the lunch hour of one particularly trying day at the office [told to hilarious effect in chapter two] he was to send a telegram to his pal Hugh Carless that changed his already remarkable life forever.

A review of Barry Crump's 'A good keen man'
I want to make Crump the patron saint of making do with crap kit. This was the age of canvas tents that weighed more that a suburban dad after a big lunch, waterproofs that weren’t, boots that were ‘half way to worn out before they were worn in’, and help that was more trouble than it was worth. At the time of writing his first book ‘A Good Keen Man’ he was a youthful deer culler on New Zealand’s south island during the early fifties, when deer numbers reached such epidemic proportions that the government had to send guys armed with war surplus 303’s (iron sights – no scopes) out into the back country to dramatically thin out their numbers before they ate the vegetation down to the rock.Support and training were merge to say the least;
‘Do you know how to bake bread in a camp oven?’
‘Three rounds per skin you bring in, after that you pay for them yourself’.
As for leadership while actually doing the job it was,
‘I’ll be along to see how you’re doing in a couple of months, weather permitting’. MORE

Inspired by Ishi the last of the Yana people and Robin Hood. The surgeon, bow hunter, and Edwardian wag Dr Saxton Pope offers this thesis on bow craft and hunting. Thanks to the non-profit Guttenberg project the book can be downloaded for free Or Read the review HERE