Max Hastings has written what for me is a marvellous book. Enthusiasm is at a discount in our colourless age. One warms to Hastings because he is an unashamed enthusiast. He may not dispel the hostility of those who consider shooters and hunters as latter-day barbarians; but at least they may catch a glimmer of the motives which make the barbarians endure the hardships, the hostility and the overdrafts that are ineluctable concomitants of the sporting life.
Field sports are for Max Hastings, as for most of the incurable romantics who practise them, a love affair with the countryside. For many the affair starts with the sensations of childhood. I have never recovered from hearing those great cart horses, Noble, Prince and Blossom, stamping in the stable of a winter morning; or from clambering on their backs to ride home through the harvest fields of Dorset. In adult life, shooting, fishing and hunting integrate a man in the countryside as walking over it never can. Sticks and stones and senseless things become animate objects. Out hunting you get to know them as friends to mark the way home or as enemies who can give you a toss. For the fisherman the river is a living thing, a mistress who may desert you for the man just along the bank.
Inheriting the magpie proclivities of his eccentric father, who held that death and sex are the principle business of countryside, Max Hastings has assembled a fine sporting library and a collection of miscellaneous sporting impedimenta. They combine to give historic depth to his activities, a rarity among sporting authors. He