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Mr. Hornaday's War: How a Peculiar Victorian Zookeeper Waged a Lonely Crusade for Wildlife That Changed the World Hardcover – May 15, 2012


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Mr. Hornaday's War: How a Peculiar Victorian Zookeeper Waged a Lonely Crusade for Wildlife That Changed the World + The Most Defiant Devil: William Temple Hornaday and His Controversial Crusade to Save American Wildlife
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press; 1st Edition, 1st Printing edition (May 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807006351
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807006351
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #830,061 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Essential for anyone interested in U.S. conservation history and the wildlife protection movement ... A landmark biography.” —Douglas Brinkley, author of The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt’s Crusade for America
 
“Beautifully paced and brilliantly written.” —Laurence A. Marschall, Natural History
 
“Lively ... fascinating.” —Nature
 
“A fascinating book . . . We have W. T. Hornaday to thank for a nation richer with wildlife today as a result of his work a century ago. Stefan Bechtel has done a masterful job telling us the story of one of America’s forgotten heroes, from his field explorations to the establishment of the Bronx Zoo and his battles in Congress. This book must be read by anyone interested in history and the environment.”—Cristián Samper, director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History
 
“William Temple Hornaday is a name we’ve forgotten, and that’s almost a crime, as he was the first truly successful eco-activist. While nineteenth-century America was wiping out species after species virtually for the fun of it, Hornaday gave voice to the animals’ agony and dragged several back from the brink. Stefan Bechtel has vividly resurrected Hornaday—a hero for those who care for the fate of the earth.”—Robert L. O’Connell, author of The Ghosts of Cannae
 
“Stefan Bechtel tells William Hornaday’s story with zest and a great eye for detail. Mr. Hornaday’s War offers adventure, political maneuvering, a stellar cast of characters, and a nuanced portrait of the crusader who called himself ‘the most defiant devil that ever came to town.’”—Henry Wiencek, author of An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America

About the Author

Stefan Bechtel is the author of ten books, his most recent including Tornado Hunter and Roar of the Heavens. A founding editor of Men’s Health magazine, his work has appeared in Esquire and the Washington Post, among other publications. He lives in Free Union, Virginia.

More About the Author

Stefan Bechtel is the author of "Mr. Hornaday's War: How a Peculiar Victorian Zookeeper Waged a Lonely Crusade for Wildlife That Changed the World" (Beacon Press, 2012). He has written ten other books that have sold more than two million copies and been translated into a dozen languages. His recent books include Tornado Hunter(National Geographic), about "boy genius" storm chaser Tim Samaras, and Roar of the Heavens (Citadel), about 1969's Hurricane Camille. He is a founding editor of Men's Healthmagazine. His work has also appeared in Esquire, the Washington Post, American Way, and other publications.

Photographer Copyright Credit Name: Peggy Harrison, 2012.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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What an interesting and important character!
Jeffrey T. Corwin
It is an excellent read about a fascinating man who changed a kicking and screaming America and who's work and message remain significant to this day - maybe more so.
J. Hundley
Well completed history of William T. Hornady.
Frederick King

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Robert Myers on July 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I was disappointed with this book. Hornaday is a fascinating subject for a biography, and Bechtel covers the major incidents of his life adequately, but the style is so irritating that I could barely finish it. Bechtel cannot resist a simile, regardless of how unnecessary or silly it might be. For example, "Wallace was also an indefatigable specimen collector, at a time when simply discovering and enumerating the earth's species, like finding all the Christmas presents under the tree, was one of the principle tasks of science." Or, "The pain was continuous, like a grinding noise" (there are two other, equally lame similes on this page). Are there no editors at the Beacon Press who might have suggested deleting a few of these? But the similes are just part of the general corny tone. I lost track of the number of times Bechtel referred to Hornaday's small stature. Within a few pages, he twice uses "lock and load" to refer to hunting. His descriptions of Hornaday's cowboy friends and Hornaday's relationship with his wife are just embarrassing. I guess Bechtel is aiming for a popular (and perhaps dimwitted) audience rather than a scholarly one, but it is possible to write a book that works for both (Douglass Brinkley, who writes a lavish blurb for this book, has achieved this). Also, I don't think I've ever seen a biography that doesn't have a single photograph. I would have loved to see pictures of Hornaday, or his famous exhibits, or "the Empress Josephine" (his wife). And, at least one of the sources, Dehler, is mentioned throughout the notes, but not cited in the Bibliography. If you're interested in this subject, and have a higher tolerance for bad writing than I do, it's a good story. But it could have been told a whole lot better.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Javan W. Rasnake on December 30, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I want to rate this book higher because William T. Hornaday is not appreciated in America as he should be for being the ONE MAN who was responsible for saving the American Bison, and making major contributions to saving other world wildlife. He's an enigmatic figure who left a long trail of information about himself, and he deserves a better biography than this.

The book and writing itself is pretty laughable. About halfway through, I became so annoyed with the author's adolescent style that I looked into his bio online, and it suddenly it all made sense: he's the editor of a men's magazine. If you read his online bio, you'll see what I mean. His writing style is infuriating, but since this is the only published biography of WTH to date, it'll just have to do.

One thing that really, really, bothers me about this volume is the authors apparent, repeated attempts to villianize Hornaday for no reason other than to attempt to create controversy. Over and over again, he judges Hornaday's actions against our modern standards of behavior, anachronistically comparing behaviors from the past to the present. It's unfair and it paints Hornaday as a bad man, which he most certainly was not. I would go so far as to call that bad journalism, Bechtel is sensationalizing events to help sell his story. Bad on you, Stefan Bechtel, you should be ashamed of yourself.

If you can get past the authors 8th grade writing style, and you are willing to research on your own a little to get past Bechtel's fibs, it's a good story. If you consider yourself a conservationist, you owe it to yourself to learn about W.T. Hornday, either by this book or by some personal research. He's a giant in the field, and we owe a lot to him.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kerry A. Wildt on February 27, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
We had the great opportunity to meet the author and speak along side him in Washington DC at an event, very nice man. He's pulled together some very important history about the bison we all should read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. Hundley VINE VOICE on July 16, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I first ran across William Hornaday's name several years ago while reading about Ota Benga. I then promptly forgot it again. (Benga, however, has always stayed with me.) I ran across it again only recently, when reading the excellent Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America. I am very glad I did. If all I had known about Hornaday had been the sad saga of Benga it would have been a shame, for while Hornaday may not have been the most pleasant of individuals, he sure was an important and fascinating one.

And this is a fascinating book, not exactly a biography, but a narrative history of a man on a mission to the nth power. Hornaday, for all practical purposes is the father on American conservation and it wasn't an easy birth.

Pugnacious (and understatement), cantankerous, opinionated, obstinate - throw the whole thesaurus out there - Hornaday was tireless in his efforts to force Americans (and eventually a lot of others) to look unblinkingly on the way they (we) had squandered and despoiled the natural world around us. Focusing on the near-extinction of the buffalo, Hornaday created a new way for most to look at nature and animals. And his message, and the need for it, are surely as intense now as 100 years ago. And along the way, he certainly had some high adventures and met (and influenced) some pretty heady company.

Highly recommended. It is an excellent read about a fascinating man who changed a kicking and screaming America and who's work and message remain significant to this day - maybe more so. But don't read it because it's good for. Read it because it's good.
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