Thanks to V. Paul Reynolds for this great review of my sporting camp book.
Maine Sporting Camps
by V. Paul Reynolds
Mt. Vernon outdoor writer and outdoorsman George Smith has yet another new book. It’s called Maine Sporting Camps. Published by Downeast Books, this 222 page book was one of those that has just been waiting to be done – a niche filler, and a good one at that.
Although others in the past have documented Maine’s rich sporting camp legacy, much has happened in a transformative way to Maine’s sporting camp business over the recent decades. Many sporting camps have just plain disappeared from the Maine outdoor landscape. Those that have survived have done so by hard work, innovation and creative stewardship. As Smith points out in his book’s most informative introduction, there were once 300 “camps” in the early 1900s; today there are fewer than 40, and some of these are operating on the margins.
What Maine’s sporting camp legacy will look like a generation from now is anybody’s guess. For the present, though, the remaining sporting camps are topnotch, and they represent a precious facet of Maine’s once-vaunted outdoor heritage. They merit a careful chronicle of who they are, what their history is, and what they offer the client, and, indeed, how to find them – whether you are searching online or off the beaten path.
In Maine Sporting Camps, Smith accomplishes his mission. In a well-organized presentation, the reader gets to learn everything he or she would want to know about Smith’s “favorite camps” ( those he has visited) and many others he has not.
You might think that a book like this would tend to be dry or predictable. Not the case. In his writing Smith’s affable character, charm and boyish enthusiasm comes through, as it always does. In other words, it’s entertaining as well as highly informative.
Accompanying each camp chapter is a side story, a personal narrative usually told by someone who has stayed at the particular camp or worked there as a guide. This really gives the book some vitality.
In his book’s introduction, Smith does a masterful job of illuminating the sporting camp history in this state and explaining the daunting challenges confronting modern sporting camp operators. Smith really did his homework. He points out how the state’s tourism promotion arm has, in effect, done little if anything to market the recreational opportunities provided visitors by the state sporting camps. I was surprised to learn that a significant portion of Maine sporting camp business comes from state residents!
Portland TV celebrity Bill Green has written the forward to Maine Sporting Camps. He gives the book high marks, which is expected. What was not expected, at least by me, was this wiseacre aside about “the old hook and bullet crowd.” Green writes,”He (George) is a serious and seasoned member of that old hook and bullet crowd, but he cleans up nicely and can charmingly discuss any aspect of Maine, our history and the outdoors.”
Not sure about you, but Bill Green has me, a proud, card-carrying member of his “hook and bullet crowd,” wondering if perhaps I should shower more often, or maybe enroll in Miss Katie’s charm school.
Even George, a solid hook and bullet guy, concedes that the famous Portland broadcaster, Mr. Green, generally a harmless guy – who was probably just trying to be urbane and witty- may nonetheless have unwittingly betrayed a personal bias not uncommon in Green’s neck of the Maine woods.
So, kudos for George Smith and Maine Sporting Camps, a most worthy book for anyone interested in Maine’s wonderful sporting camps and lodges, past and present.
As for Bill Green, one big, juicy hook n’ bullet raspberry….ppphhhhh…. for him.
The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WQVM-FM 101.3) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org . He has three books “A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook”, “Backtrack.” And his latest “The Maine Angler’s Logbook.” .Online purchase information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications.com..