By Chris Phillips
Published By The Halcyon Press
Reviewed By Daryl Crimp
As the title doubly suggests, Chris Phillips has accumulated plenty of experience behind the rifle and what you are about to read is written in a ‘blokesy’ down-to-earth fashion. In the introduction, he makes a lot of his poor education and incompatibility with institutionalised education but, as the book unfolds, it becomes apparent that he’s no slug, and certainly very bush savvy. While he claims to be a shooter ahead of a hunter, More Than The Odd Round Mate is a salt and pepper assortment of hunts and incidents spanning a decades long love affair with the back country, with enough variety to keep the pages turing at a good clip.
Chris is a good storyteller, starting each chapter with a catchy ‘hook’ that quickly immerses you in the story. The underlying theme of the book depicts the archetypal upbringing of the rural Kiwi lad, when opportunities existed to get into the wilderness and be shaped, honed and guided by nature to become self-respecting, resilient, adventurous and resourceful – plus put a few bucks in the back pocket along the way.
While written from the perspective of a commercial meat shooter, the veil is thin and there is much the recreational hunter can relate to: hard days hunting, all night missions, duffed opportunities, the need to improvise and enough ‘cordite’ to overwhelm the smell of printer’s ink. While purist hunters may struggle with the commercial aspect of the shooter hunter, it is interesting to note that path Chris took still allowed him to evolve with strong hunting ethics and a deep love and respect for the wilderness.
Chris uses humour, metaphor and hyperbole to good effect to keep the stories entertaining, although overuse of slang and colloquial idioms do get tiring in the reading situation. There are ample colour photos to support the yarns and while many are from the instamatic film era and of limited quality, the overall layout of the pictures isn’t strong.
What does shine through is Chris’s observation of the bigger picture and his ability to draw pleasure from all components of the greater outdoor experience: grunge-caked smelly sleeping bags, interludes with feral cats, pet mice, freezing snow, purple toadstools and maggot-infested meat is a much a part of the beauty of the wilderness as is the golden sunrise.
More Than The Odd Round Mate is an enjoyable and entertaining read – with the odd glimpse of brilliant writing thrown in.