Prolific outdoorsy writer heads back to nature—and elsewhere.
Whether producing articles for Field & Stream or delivering another mysterious tale about fictional sheriff Bo Tully, McManus (The Blight Way, 2006, etc.) is always McManus: warm, sharp and above all gently funny. Over the years, he’s proven to be at his sharpest when writing about himself, and this collection of columns from Outdoor Life is no exception. A humorist first and a naturist second, McManus here mines the great outdoors for jokes and self-effacements, most of them successful. In the title piece, a succinct fishing primer, he admits that “my flycasting has been compared by a guide to having the exact same motions those of an old lady fighting off a bee with a broom handle.” His questionable fishing abilities are further discussed in “Performance Netting,” which chronicles an embarrassing day on the lake with his editor at Outdoor Life. McManus is equally amusing when he writes about the great indoors, especially when discussing his friend Fenton Quagmire, who is possessed of a large bank account and a small level of common sense. The author positions himself as the folksy storyteller next door, an observationalist in the tradition of Garrison Keillor, with a touch of Dave Barry thrown in for good measure. The only missteps here stem from the fact that this is a compilation; as such, it lacks narrative arc. Since McManus’s tone and delivery are consistently laid-back, the essays can become tedious when read in sequence. Attacked in bits and pieces, however, this is often a rewarding experience.
Equally charming when discussing hunting, fishing or canine flatulence, McManus is the kind of guy you’d like to crack open a beer and sit by a campfire with.