THE RED SNOW by James Greiner


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One of the weakest in the recent herd of wolf/coyote books, this amateurish quasi-novel follows a small pack of Alaska gray wolves from one spring to the next--a sluggish recitation that's bogged down with clumsy lecture material and only slightly enlivened by the introduction (halfway through) of a human hunter. Greiner begins with an old, pregnant gray bitch going through labor pains, bearing and nursing new pups. The pups grow. A beaver is killed. A grizzly bear stalks a moose calf. The bitch and her huge black mate attack a caribou. And then the pack makes the mistake of feeding on a bull-moose which has been felled (for winter eating) by lonely, bitter 67-year-old Jake Tatum, a veteran wolfer/pilot angered by recent ecological concerns and the banning of wolfing-by-plane. Infuriated, Jake sets cruel traps (""big traps, numbers 114 and 4(apple) Newhouses predominating"") and captures three of the wolves. The pack's survivors move elsewhere and kill some ewes, but soon--cold and hungry--they're back in Jake's area and kill his husky dog. So finally Jake goes shotgunning after the wolves in his plane but winds up dead himself--as the gray bitch, pregnant again in spring, faces yet another summer. . . . Greiner deserves some credit for avoiding the anthromorphic sentimentality rampant in wolf-literature; and much of his wildlife observation does involve authentic detail. But his prose is a disaster area, often downright illiterate and/or confusing, with leaden echoes of bad junior-high textbooks (""Paleontologic time is a concept that relies upon numbers so large that they boggle the mind"") or the worst nature filmstrips (""Only the tuft-eared lynx relies almost exclusively upon such cyclic plentitude for his own numbers""). And even the graphic scenes of hunt-and-kill are sabotaged by the awkward wordiness: ""the gray bitch's teeth being age-worn caused her grip on the bull's throat to fail soon after she obtained it."" Even for wildlife fans--a dull, soggy trek.

Pub Date: Sept. 26th, 1980
Publisher: Doubleday