In this post, there are two reviews, not one. And there are not usual reviews of business / personal development books usually posted on ExpandBeyondYourself. The first one is a brilliant autobiography and the second is an awesome thriller.
This is very a good book. The writing style is rough, but not clumsy. So it doesn’t hinder enjoying the book’s content. And the content is golden, mostly because it is so refreshingly authentic.
The book tells the story of one man. It says it without hiding very little, and it’s stripped of superficial bells and whistles. It’s a bare life and it’s true that life writes the best stories.
And, like life, this book is for everyone. Yes, it’s full of hunting stories and told in a dry man’s style, but gals can enjoy it and learn from it too. For example, they can discover what real men really appreciate in women.
I could see two parts within the book. The first half or so is Red’s story of becoming a man and building his life from scratch. The second half reads more like a bunch of essays. Red established his outfitting venture and he finally settled in one place. The story is not cohesive anymore, but it makes it not a dime less interesting. I equally enjoyed both parts.
I wolfed the first half of the book. It revealed a different culture for me.
I have no idea why I find the post-WWII period in the Western so captivating, but I do. When I read a memoir from those times from the UK I was equally hooked.
I loved seeing how Red transformed from a boy into a man. There was no single overarching event, it was a long process over many years. It was fascinating how a man could secure his living practically by developing respect in the local community. Once Red was known as a competent, hard worker he never had problems finding the employment.
It was also very enlightening to see how he gained his experience: by doing. Everything – from driving a car through taking care of cattle to road building with a dynamite – he learned by trial and error. No long lectures but the practice was his teacher.
It amazes me to no end how hard people worked in these times… and in these regions. Often, it was labor, slug and drudgework from dawn till dusk. Whenever Red started a new phase in his life, he had to build everything from scratch with little help other than some horsepower and manpower. He built his own homes and his farms not once, not twice, but multiple times. When he started his outfitting business and bought a plane, he also had to build landing lanes in multiple locations in the wilderness.
Red’s descriptions of his legwork reminded me my grandfather who was a farmer. He also worked from dawn till dusk, and always had something more to do. I remember visiting his farm in my early years and trying to avoid the whole bunch of chores my grandpa was always eager to pass on me.
Red’s writing style is not beautiful or witty. Yet, I laughed more than once when he described in his dry style different anecdotes from his life or the mischiefs of his children. Life writes the best stories, this is so true. The events he described were funny in their own right. Just imagine a man chasing a grizzly bear with a brush… and then being chased down by the bear when it came to his senses after the madman’s onslaught.
For a man whose handshake is as solid as his signature, I found it amusing how many times (more than a few!) Red wasn’t entirely truthful when speaking with authorities. To his credit, Red was absolutely honest in front of his readers and confessed each lie he sold to authorities on various occasions.
I guess, when dealing with liars, by definition you cannot be entirely truthful. Don’t play according to their rules or you will be doomed from the start.
Canadians Are Not Nice
I don’t want to spoil the story, but once Red purposefully burned a blockhouse with some hunters’ possessions inside. Oddly brutal for ‘nice Canadians’, don’t you think?
And yes, he was in his rights and I would have done the same.
Red faced death more than once. He saved others from death more than once. And this was all while living his ‘normal’ life. When you live your whole life among livestock and operating heavy machinery, the danger is just a part of your life. It goes without saying that wild animals and firearms are not especially safe too.
Red was an ambulance driver, a cowboy, a forest ranger (in Canada it means fighting forest fires), a farmer, a hunter and an outfitter. None of those occupations are connoted with cozy safety.
Add to this mix the places where he dwelled, when he was often the only human being in dozens mile radius… adventures were inventible.
The second half of the book, when Red finally ‘settled down’ in one place and started his outfitting business, after the initial setup phase, reads like a bunch of essays. Most of them apply to his clients’ hunting adventures, but he also describes encounters with wild animals, plane crashes, dangerous accidents, rescue actions and the power of nature at work. Practically each chapter tells a different story. Sometimes there are several, loosely related, stories in one chapter.
I am no hunter, I have never had a rifle in my hands. Some of the details of the book were puzzling to me. Calling hunting ‘a sport’ triggers an uneasy feeling in my gut. But I enjoyed the book thoroughly nonetheless. It was better than 90% of the fiction adventures book I read and I read hundreds of them.
I just scratched the surface in this review. I mentioned only a few anecdotes out of hundreds of pages. “The Man Called Red” is a great read. It would be especially beneficial for young folks who dream about adventures to confront the Hollywood images with the real life. And it contains countless lessons on what it means to be a man cloaked in dangerous adventure, so those young folks will be easily tricked into reading the book 😀
This gem absolutely deserves 5 stars!
I’ve read thousands of books in my life. I’m not exaggerating when I say this one is truly incredible.
I had read a couple of John’s books before and I liked them quite a lot. After reading “24th Name” I became a hardcore fan.
“24th Name” easily landed in my top10 list of all the books I’ve read. It’s next to “First Blood” by David Morrel, “The Fellowship of the Ring” by J.R.R. Tolkien, Jack Ryan’s series of Tom Clancy and “The Game of Thrones” by J.R.R Martin.
It is like The Equalizer in writing. Which means it’s 10 to 100 times better than the movie 😉
This book is really good. Two storylines running parallel. A lot of action. Not the usual happy ending. Awesome analysis of what’s going on, all the time.
Jack Ryan’s series are my favorite spy novels. Tom Clancy put volumes of detailed info into his books to make them believable. I’m a geek, so I don’t mind reading a dozen pages of description of the atomic bomb explosion.
John Braddock’s approach is different. He actually worked in the field. He knows this stuff intimately.
And it shows. I wolfed the book. It kept me curious and thrilled all the time.
I agree with another reviewer – the only downside of the book is that it is so short. I could read 1,000 pages of such prose.
And the ending blew my mind away. The suggestion that John wrote his books only to get to the strands and nodes and that actually he is the guy who helped fix the problems under the radar… brilliant.
Of course, he is not the punisher from the book, but the twist was brilliant.
Or is he?