Sunday, June 02, 2019

33. Black Fox Running by Brian Carter

This was a very exciting little find, though now I can't remember exactly where.  It falls perfectly into my pastoral animals adventure sub-genre (need a better name) and though a bit slow for me to read, was a moving and engrossing story that is going on the shelf.

It's the story of Wulfgar, a large and powerful fox living in Dartmoor after the end of World War II. As it say in the preface, Brian Carter "knows Dartmoor intimately and for years has been a very close observer of foxes and other animals".  It shows.  There is a really nice hand-drawn map (though quite small in detail, so that at this age I needed to really squint to read it) and the text lovingly details the animals, insects, plants and agricultural life of this region.  At times, he went into such detail, with very specific names and terms to the point that I kind of lost the thread.  I love the literature of British rural life, but I am not a nerd about it and having very little room for facts left in my soul, this kind of detail is lost on me.  It is not a knock on the book at all, just to point out that it took me a long time to read it because of this.  Better informed readers would find this element a positive, because even when I didn't know which bird he was referring to, it still felt very evocative and transported you to that place.  I really need to do a trip to this part of the world, if it hasn't all already been developed over.

Though much of the book is Wulfgar's life as a fox, there is a strong narrative thread.  Scoble, the shell-shocked trapper is obsessed with Wulfgar and as his life slowly succumbs to alchoholism, disease and the psychological ravages of surviving the trenches of World War I, he wages a horrific war against all the little creatures and foxes especially.  There are some interesting class issues that are well portrayed, as the local gentry retard Scobles cruel ways, as they want the foxes kept alive for their sport.  Interestingly, the two most sympathetic humans are a young boy who loves nature (and of course is treated as being a bit simple) and an American ex-fighter pilot coming to the country to recover. 

At first, Scoble and his mad dog Jacko are portrayed as real monsters and they do some horrible things.  There is also conflict between him and the American.  But by the end, you almost feel sorry for him.  His end underlines a quiet but powerful theme against war that elevates this book beyond the simple ecological message.

[Note on the slow output for the month of May, NBA playoffs were intense with the Warriors gunning for their 4th championship title with this team plus me playing a lot of basketball and daughter activities getting more varied.  Social media usage was down, so can't use that as an excuse.]


Rick Robinson said...

I have this, and read it years ago. At that time I hated Scoble so much I had a hard time finishing the book, and finally didn't, vowing to try again at a later date, which so far hasn't happened. Maybe this is the time...

OlmanFeelyus said...

I hear you. He is really hateful. It is kind of tough to read, especially if you are an animal love. By the end, as I tried to convey, he is portrayed in a way that makes his awfulness at least understandable, though not excusable. I think you will find it worth while to make it to the end.