Jim Carmichel succeeded Jack O’Connor as shooting editor for Outdoor Life, and held the position for 38 years. Think about that for a moment, and it’s easy to understand why Carmichel is regarded by many in publishing as not only a dean among gun writers but an individual whose prose defined a fascinating era of international big-game hunting and wingshooting. Indeed, his indelible style and inimitable wit formed the epicenter of the period encompassed by his career.
The hardback collector’s edition is divided into three sections: “Africa and Around the World”; “North America”; and “Guns and Shooting.” If the subdivisions don’t hook you, perhaps Chapter 1 will: It’s titled “When a Lion Comes to Kill You.” There, Carmichel relates a tale of hunting eland in the Central African Empire, with a Mauser chambered for such, when a lion charges from the bush intent on ending his life. “We closed on each other and I fired again,” he writes. “Twenty yards—no effect. One shell left. … As the bolt locked on my last cartridge, another form moved in the brush from where the lion had come. A second lion! Not charging yet, but nervously flicking his tail and studying me with his cold, yellow eyes. ‘This,’ I said to myself, ‘is about to get interesting.’”
Such deft storytelling is on display elsewhere, too: when a “dead” crocodile comes back to life—twice—on Zimbabwe’s “river of death”; amid the intrigue of a Moscow hotel room full of rubles during a $100,000-hunt for Russian stag; and when, 3 miles high in pursuit of the Mystery Deer of the Andes, Carmichel admits, “Death on high mountains can take several forms.”
Before he retired, I shared only one camp with Jim Carmichel. Such is my loss. My gain—and yours, too—is the collection of stories he shares with us in this book.