Books & Comments
Read It and Weep
**HORN OF THE HUNTER By Robert C. Ruark. **
Originally published by Henry Holt and Co., 1954. Currently printed by Safari Press. 351 pp. Hardcover, $35; www.safaripress.com
>> Robert Ruark is remembered mostly as the author of his timeless column, The Old Man and the Boy, for this magazine. But in his short lifetime he was much more than that-a hugely popular syndicated newspaper columnist and reporter and a bestselling novelist. Ruark and his wife, Virginia, went to British East Africa (Kenya and Tanganyika) in 1951 for a two-month safari with professional hunter Harry Selby. The result was Horn of the Hunter, a chronicle of that safari and, very arguably, the best book on African hunting ever written. Ruark, who loved Africa with a passion that never faded, was a mesmerizing writer, funny and self-deprecating and moving, with a marvelous eye for detail. But above all he was enchanted with the continent and its people and animals. Read it with a sense of sorrow, for Ruark was doomed (he died in 1966), and the Africa he knew would soon vanish forever. But he left us a book about what he saw and did and felt there, and there is nothing else like it.
-David E. Petzal
TROUT By Ray Bergman.
_ Originally published by Knopf, 1938. Published by the Derrydale Press/Taylor Trade Publishing. 482 pp. Softcover, $30; 800-462-6420; www.taylortradepublishing.com_ >> Millions of anglers-including this one-gained their first knowledge of trout and honed their fishing skills from this book in the years after World War II. Bergman had the easygoing style of a favorite uncle coupled with a sharply analytical mind that made the subtle sides of trout fishing easy to understand and fun to read. Even though some of his notes on tackle are outdated (Bergman died in 1967, before graphite fishing rods were invented), this reprint of his 1952 second edition holds as much warmth and practical wisdom for a new generation of anglers as it did for their grandfathers. If you haven’t yet met Bergman in print, I envy the joy of your discovery.
**-John Merwin **
SHOTS AT WHITETAILS By Lawrence R. Koller.
Originally published by Little, Brown and Co., 1948. Third edition published by Krause Publications. 304 pp. Hardcover, $10; 800-258-0929; www.krause.com >> Larry Koller was a sublimely skilled all-around outdoorsman: a masterful flyfisherman who could also make a split-bamboo rod, an excellent shot with rifle, handgun, and shotgun, an accomplished gunsmith, and a fine outdoor cook. But he seems destined to be remembered for this definitive book on deer hunting, which has been around now for nearly 60 years. Koller, who did nearly all his hunting in the Catskill and Adirondack Mountains of New York, was a naturalist and woodsman who could outthink just about any deer, and Shots at Whitetails is all as valid as the day Koller put it on paper. It also shows how immensely the sport has changed. There was no GPS, no scent-blocking clothing, no commercially produced tree stands, and almost no scopes. Koller regarded the .270 as too much gun for the average hunter, preferring instead the diminutive .250/3000. Shots at Whitetails is a relic of a bygone time, but it is still a marvel and a lasting monument to a great hunter and writer.