by Terry Wieland
Tom McIntyre died last week (Nov. 3) at his home in Sheridan, Wyoming. He was 70 years old with a lot accomplished in life. We were good friends, going back 30 years, although I’d been reading his stuff long before we met. There are so many aspects of Tom and his work I want to talk about, I’ll probably keep coming back to it over the course of several of these missives.
Since this is the first, however, we should deal with the usual requirements of a proper obituary. His formal one can be found at https://www.kanefuneral.com/obituaries/thomas-a-mcintyre and contains the usual information about birth, education, and so on. It also lists Tom’s myriad books, the many magazines for which he wrote, and his undoubted qualities as an autodidact polymath of intimidating proportions. Come to think of it, he was a man of intimidating proportions in just about every way, physically and intellectually.
I got to know him first as the hunting editor of Sports Afield back in the 1980s. At that time, Sports Afield was the smallest of the Big Three, trailing Field & Stream (the largest by far) and Outdoor Life by a considerable margin. Each attempted to establish a distinct identity and, whether by accident or design, SA was the most cerebral of the three. It valued fine writing, and Tom’s was right at the top.
Dave Petzal, a long-time friend and colleague of us both, former executive editor of Field & Stream, and himself a man with a claim to being the most cerebral guy in a distinctly un-cerebral business (writing about guns and hunting) had this to say when I asked about Tom’s writing style:
“Tom McIntyre’s writing was an odd mixture of the often beautiful and the highly complex. It would take you hither and thither, and then you would see where he was going and be confronted with a veritable Hawaiian sunset of the English language. Tom had funk and style and heart. We shall not look upon his like again.”
Tom and I met in person for the first time at a publisher’s gathering of some sort in 1990 or ’91. I walked in to find a bunch of people sitting around a table. One was a big bear of a guy dressed like a backwoodsman, consuming dry martinis from a glass the size of a birdbath. After that, we slowly became friends. We hunted together only one time—a quail hunt in Mexico in 2006 that is best forgotten. It was not Tom’s finest moment as, late in life (he was 53) he battled both his weight and his fondness for martinis. But, we stayed friends.
One passion we shared was for the work of Robert Ruark. His son Bryan’s middle name is Ruark, and when it came time to reissue A View from a Tall Hill – Robert Ruark in Africa in paperback, Tom agreed to write a foreword for it.
I wasn’t terribly happy with the first draft, since Tom seemed to be fixating on racism, both latent and overt, and we had words over it. If there is one thing Robert Ruark was not, it was a racist. Anyway, we sorted it out eventually and the foreword duly appeared in the new book.
As Tom’s wife, Elaine, said to me a few days ago, though: “If you didn’t butt heads with Tom at least once, you weren’t really a friend.”
Tom’s last book, and the one he considered his magnum opus, is due to be released in February, 2023. It’s called Thunder Without Rain, and is the story of African buffalo. It’s a measure of the esteem in which McIntyre was held, not just in our insular little world of outdoor writing, but in the rarified world of the New York writing salons, that the foreword for that book has been written by David Mamet, author of Glengarry Glen Ross.
Mamet was a very early contributor to Gray’s (two poems) as well as writing a story on deer hunting for Wild and Fair, an anthology Tom edited back in 2007. I contributed a story to that as well, about hunting brown bears in Prince William Sound. It’s a small world.
Thomas McIntyre (as he likes his bylines to read) was an early and long-time, if sporadic, contributor to Gray’s, and we have two last pieces about to appear. One, on the history of whitetails, is in our Expeditions & Guides 2023 issue, coming out next month. The other is in our Fiftieth Anniversary issue, due for publication next year.
Tommy Mac may be gone, but he refuses to leave. For which I, for one, am profoundly grateful.
Gray’s Shooting Editor Terry Wieland once contacted McIntyre and got his reply in the form of a quote from an obscure Robert W. Service poem. When Wieland replied with a quote from the same verse (he had a copy of Service’s complete works, in those pre-Google days) it went some way toward cementing the relationship.