I go into more detail about Stanford, his life, and his career in Sporting Notes #148 (“For Your Reading Pleasure…”, August 8, 2023). At that time, I was saving Bledgrave Hall for the first blustery, rainy day of fall, which has now come and gone.
In Bledgrave Hall, Stanford pits a discharged officer of the Royal Engineers, newly returned home from a POW camp, against the depredations of an avid bird’s-egg collector intent on stealing the eggs of exceedingly rare avocets in the English coastal marshes. I won’t say more than that, except to assure you of a most gratifying ending after a remarkably educational 75 pages of Stanford’s elegant prose.
Don’t care about avocets? Not even sure what an avocet is? Neither did I, and neither was I, but now I do, and now I am, thanks to Stanford.
Sad to say, such sporting fiction has become all but a thing of the past. I cannot imagine any publisher, even those devoted to the outdoor pursuits, who would publish a novel about, say red grouse, or woodcock, or capercaillie. A few have included fly fishing, such as A River Runs Through It, but even that was long ago and far away. Steve Bodio did persuade a publisher to issue his long-awaited novel Tiger Country a couple of years ago. By a strange coincidence, it deals with the same issue as Bledgrave Hall, except it is wolves in New Mexico, and there is little in the way of hunting in it. Still, any Bodio is better than no Bodio, and I recommend it.
With the exception of Annie Proulx, I can’t think of a major novelist today who might delve into the subject as Stanford did. But I could be wrong.
Meanwhile, Abe Books has alerted me to the existence of copies of Last Chukker and No Sportsman At All to be found in far-off wherever, for what amounts to pennies. Not sure what the latter is about, but it’s a J.K. Stanford. That’s good enough for me.
Gray’s shooting editor Terry Wieland is moving his huge and ever-growing library to a new abode, and getting a month’s worth of gym-time StairClimber cardio at the same time. Kindle? Forget it. He loves those lightly foxed pages harboring the odd long-dead blue-bottle fly, preserved like a pressed flower. No accounting for taste.