Saturday, July 2, 2011

Friday's Forgotten Book: HIGH HUNT by David Eddings

High Hunt was published in 1973, the year we pulled out of Viet Nam.  Lost the war, and finally admitted it.  We even ended the draft, though much too late for me.

Republicans were still in office that year.  Nixon would resign before the next year was out.  American jingoism dipped to a low ebb, and American male machismo looked for somewhere to else stand.

The movie adaptation of James Dickey's Deliverance came out in 1972 and may have been an influence.  Robert Ardrey, author of African Genesis and The Territorial Imperative, was then working on The Hunting Hypothesis, which would be published about the same time as the 1976 Fawcett Crest paperback edition of High Hunt . 
 High Hunt was the author's first novel, in part a coming-of-age novel with a young man's issues written large.  I read High Hunt after it first came out and thought it grand; rereading it now, I see my younger self reading it too.

There are many similarities between High Hunt and Deliverance, though the latter is the much greater work of art, greater in theme, more poetic, and more tightly written.   Some passages of High Hunt now seem either hastily written or too long labored, darlings the author should have excised altogether.  But the parts I either missed or thought too boring to remember back then are more interesting now.

Indeed, there is much here to admire.  It deals with issues concerning the masculine ego, but it is a family saga too with much to say about fathers and sons and the nature of male camaraderie.  Michael Cimino's Viet Nam movie, The Deer Hunter, now makes an interesting companion piece.

David Eddings did not become a successful author until many years later.  His string of fantasy epics became best sellers and brought him some critical recognition too. 

We don't know what Dickey thought of High Hunt, if he read it, nor what David Eddings thought of The Deer Hunter.  I'm not suggesting undue influence connecting these works of art; they were signs of their times. 

But High Hunt has something that makes it stand apart from the other works mentioned here, and that's a hopeful ending.  The protagonist has come to see the ultimate emptiness of masculine rituals, and has asked his love to marry him.  The end of the novel seems to suggest that the search for true love is the highest hunt of all.

As sappy as that may sound, it works for me.


  1. Even though I'm probably not the audience for these books, I still enjoyed your review and your mention of Robert Ardrey. Ardrey's book THE TERRITORIAL IMPERATIVE was one of the most influential books of my late teen years. I still remember it with fondness and occasionally find myself mentioning his theories. Up until I read this it had never occurred to me that animals might have territorial issues. Issues that appeared to guide so much of what they (we) do.

    Even now when I see my small dog behaving in a way made clear by his book, I think of Ardrey.

  2. THE DEER HUNTER was directed by Michael Cimino, not Robert Altman. But thanks for this, didn't know Eddings had written this before his fantasy epics!

  3. Thanks, all!

    And you are right, Juri. All such corrections are welcome here. I need all the help I can get.