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Robert Ruark Remembered in Metro

October 15, 2008

The cover story of the October issue of Metro Magazine remembers Robert Ruark, a North Carolina writer who became a national and international sensation but has been too largely neglected or even forgotten in more recent years. Ruark, a journalist and novelist, was named “the most talked about reporter in the country” in a 1947 Life magazine but was also called “the poor man’s Hemingway” for works ranging from his regular (and popular) articles for Field & Stream to his novels, including his controversial novel, Something of Value, which led to him being banned in Kenya. Still, in those days, who could complain about being compared to Hemingway, right?

I’ve remarked on this site before how difficult it is to find time to read all of the books one would like, and Ruark’s works have long been on my list of books I should read but haven’t found time yet to read. This cover story, by Bill Morris, has prompted me to move Ruark up the stack a little, and even if you don’t plan on tracking down the books yourself, the article gathers some interesting anecdotes and personal reflections on a charismatic figure, and also offers rich insight into how an author can go from notoriety in his lifetime to obscurity after his death — and then insight into what’s being done to resurrect that reputation. 

Note: Though the article emphasizes the fact that Ruark has not been tapped for the North Carolina Journalism Hall of Fame (administered by his alma mater, UNC-Chapel Hill), it’s worth noting that the author has been inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame. A short biography of Ruark is available from that site.

— Art Taylor

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3 comments

  1. Hey, this blog is really fabulous. I like what you’re doing here.


  2. Art:

    If I could throw my two cents in about Ruark here goes.

    I believe he was an outstanding and neglected writer whose association with popular writing (blockbuster books, movie deals) didn’t help his legacy. These people tend to be forgotten, as will Grisham and Rice and the other mega-authors of our own era. Don’t forget how big Michener was, and how he dominated the pop lists for decades and decades, and now he is nearly forgotten, just a few short years after his death.

    Ruark may not have a similar fate. The hunting and fishing reader never forgot him and his books are rightfully considered the finest in the field, far better than Hemingway, whose outdoor writing is boastful, episodic, and cryptic. Of course that may be why one reads Hemingway. But for vivid outdoor storytelling Ruark has him.

    Ruark’s novels have a strong Chandler Caine Michener Uris feel but he was a much better writer than these pop contemporaries. His narrative is aggressive and thought-provoking and he never dumbs it down for the reader as the aforementioned do. The novels are badly dated by his 50’s macho white American perspective but the force of his personality invaded his books in ways you don’t often see anymore and for me it doesn’t diminish the pleasure of reading him. He was a confident writer and excellent craftsman.

    He was very consistent, and all his books are fun to read. Vivid and skillful writing.


  3. Thanks for the comments here, Richard — good perspectives on Ruark. I’ve heard from others off-line about how important his works have been to them personally and about how they think his works should have more than earned the wider and lasting audience that seems to elude him. Thanks for adding to those voices on his behalf.



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