If the captivating smile of a young Hemingway crouched over a lion isn't enough to pull you inside the covers of The Greatest Hunting Stories Ever Told, the remarkable prose you'll find throughout its pages will. Its target is serious writing, and it bags some powerful literary prey. Lamar Underwood, long an editor at Sports Afield and Outdoors, has assembled a stellar collection from the pens of Hemingway (naturally), Faulkner, Turgenev, Thomas McGuane, Vance Bourjaily, Patrick O'Brian, Robert Ruark, and Teddy Roosevelt, all of whose prose hunts for big answers as well as big game.
While clearly addressed to the fraternity of hunters, the essays and stories in this collection transcend the boundaries of the field. McGuane, writing passionately about how the hunt for food defines who we are in "The Heart of the Game," observes, as Sitting Bull did before him, "when the buffalo are gone, we will hunt mice, for we are hunters and we want our freedom." Hemingway, in "Remembering Shooting-Flying," an Esquire column from 1935, keeps world affairs in perspective when he wonders "how the snipe fly in
now and whether shooting pheasants is counter-revolutionary." "The Russia Forest and the Steppe" is one of Turgenev's evocative "Hunter's Sketches"; evocative also defines "Mister Howard Was a Real Gent," one of Ruark's marvelous "Old Man and the Boy" contributions to Field & Stream.
Given the overall subject, there is plenty of sporting drama throughout, but also plenty of thoughtful reflection, and absolutely magnificent storytelling, which is as it should be. When you set your sights on the greatest, your aim needs to be true. --Jeff Silverman