I seldom offer book reviews as a subject for my outdoor columns. Not that there aren’t lots of outdoor oriented books out there. There are fishing books, hunting books, books about fishing reels, rods, flies, lures and other subjects. You can find plenty of books about hunting, hunting guns, scopes to use, shotguns to shoot, places to go and other topics. You can buy outdoor books, get them at a library or listen to books on tape. Goodness, I even wrote a book for Kindle readers available on Amazon. It’s an “E” book, not available in a printed version.
Perhaps it’s because there are so many books from which to choose I leave the subject alone. If I review one, I’ll need to do the next and the next or at least I’ll feel I need to for fairness’ sake. I’m making an exception - for an exceptional book.
I like a good book and “Zumbo” is a good book. I enjoy reading books written by good writers. A mediocre story by a good writer is better than a great story by a mediocre writer. It certainly doesn’t hurt this book to be a great story written about a man I’ve come to call “my friend.” It doesn’t hurt the book was written by an author I’ve come to call “my friend.” I could end my review right there. A good story about my friend, written by an accomplished writer who happens to be my friend. “Zumbo,” by K.J. Houtman is available for $29.99 at Amazon.
Anyone who reads much about the outdoors, particularly a person who has been a reader of Outdoor Life magazine will recognize the name, Jim Zumbo. Jim wrote for that magazine and others for decades. He initially free lanced for Outdoor Life, became a field editor for the magazine later on with his name on the masthead then made a career altering decision to leave for reason.
He quit Outdoor Life when a new editor wanted him to write a feature story about cigars. The magazine’s new direction is trying to attract a “higher end demographic” is how the editor explained it. An outdoor magazine featuring stories about cigar-smoking doesn’t need stories by writers like Jim Zumbo.
Jim wrote (writes - he’s still active and only semi-retired) about hunting, fishing and about people hunting and fishing and places to hunt and fish and how to clean and cook the results of a hunting and fishing trip and.... You get the picture. He may have smoked a cigar or two at the end of a hunting or fishing trip, but you’ll not read a story about it.
Even before I met Zumbo, I was a fan. I liked to read hunting and fishing stories, but it was more. We followed somewhat parallel career paths at least early in our lives and careers. We both went to college with a curriculum that would lead to a career path in the outdoors in natural resource management. We both accepted jobs with a state natural resource management agency upon graduation. We both sold our first story to an outdoor magazine while we were still in college.
Both of our writing careers were started at the urging of one of our college instructors although Zumbo got the better of the deal. I got a paycheck from the publication. Money is soon gone for a college kid. Zumbo bet his professor he could sell an outdoor story and won a case of Lucky Lager beer. Money is one thing, pride is far better and longer lasting.
Writer, Houtman is able to bring Zumbo’s writing career to life with her prose. She doesn’t tell his stories, instead, she tells the story of how he lived the stories and became the stories, across America, Alaska and Africa.
If you’re an outdoorsman or have a hunter or angler on your Christmas list, he or she will enjoy this book. I certainly did.
For more information and links to the book’s page at Amazon click up www.zumbothebook.com.