By Peter Ryan
Reviewed by Daryl Crimp
Seldom do you get the complete package, but Peter Ryan masterfully delivers it in Hunting New Zealand – Parts Unknown, a multi-layered tome that breaks the mould of contemporary hunting literature.
From the outset the book exudes style, with the jacket imagery hinting at what lies beneath but all the while illuminating through nuance – a delightful paradox that foreshadows Ryan’s writing. The artful photograph of confident stag frozen in time on a chilly morning speaks to the core of what it is to be a hunter, while the monarch’s distant stare defies Ryan to do the same with words. The back jacket is pure Peter Ryan – ambience and mood. Combine the two images and you get a sense of what is about to unfold.
This is a substantive read in which Peter sets the foundations on the bedrock of our hunting history but not in a textbook manner, and herein lies the ability of a great storyteller and masterful wordsmith; Ryan breathes life into his writing and evokes a kind of comfort that makes you want to hunker down, pour a single malt, and read on. What then unfolds is an eclectic mix of subjects and stories, with Peter paying homage to the land, the game, the pursuit, and the people who have influenced him in some way. It’s not a ‘whack ‘em and stack ‘em’ read but it has everything a good hunting book should have: roaring stags, alpine adventures, bird shooting, dogs, nostalgia, escapades from the venison recovery era, characters like ‘Crumpy’, huts, blizzards, gut-busters, guns and gear, and reminisces too.
Peter Ryan is also the complete package: accomplished hunter both of bird and game, fisher and consummate outdoorsman, active conservationist, husband and father, and son and heir to an undying legacy of life entwined with nature, and lover of wildlife and the marriage of simple pleasures like wine and wildfoods and naked fires. He is also a professional writer and author, therefore well-qualified to produce such a rich tapestry as this.
I said at the start it breaks the mould and in Peter’s own words it’s not another, “me, me, me book. Instead its a salute to those experts I’ve had the privilege to know…”
Throughout the book he has cameoed stories from many notable hunters including: Craig Boddington, Ken Tustin, Davey Hughes, Howard Egan, and many more. But, while Ryan is likeably humble, it is his writing that is the true showcase here. He has the ability to snuggle into subject matter and find some tiny evocative piece of prose that shines a light on it better than most. Like a mature red wine, Ryan’s writing is aged with the soft notes of Ruark and a hint of Hemingway. Perhaps Peter Ryan’s work is destined to become a classic of our time.
Masterfully constructed and a delight to read.