2 out of 4 stars
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The Forgotten Lawmen Part 1 by D. B. McCrea is a brief memoir based on the author's experiences as game warden in Moody County, South Dakota. Through McCrea's simple explanations, we learn a lot about his job description, as well as many of the obstacles he faced during his early years as warden. Run-ins with the general public, with poachers, and with superiors make for a relatively varied and interesting reading experience, but I did not find myself gripped consistently during the book. I was alternately intrigued and bored by the technicalities of the job and details about the local community.
The main focus of the book was a series of complaints about how demanding the job was, and how much opposition the author faced when he first came to Moody County. It had the potential to be an inspiring tale of a man working his way towards becoming a respected member of a hostile community - and this is what I assume McCrea was aiming for with his narrative. However, I found the tone to be grating in its constant grumbling and carping, and I found that McCrea's confrontational and over-confident style made it difficult for me to sympathise with his difficulties. There is a good deal of repetition in the book; this is mostly related to the reiterated grievance that the locals spread rumours about the author. While this is obviously a horrible situation, I thought that it was overstated to a tedious degree. On the other hand, I really loved the chapter which focused on McCrea's beloved dog Jenny, which I found to be genuinely touching.
A number of McCrea's encounters with poachers are described well and are quite thrilling. The sense of danger and threat comes across strongly. However, other stories are underwhelming and seem to be about routine procedures. There are many humourous interchanges with entitled members of the public, who often have crazy requests for McCrea. This humour was undercut for me by his dismissive and impatient tone towards these people. The author spends a large swathe of time remonstrating about being bad-mouthed and maligned, and an equally large portion in denigrating some of the more tricky members of his community.
In addition, I would not recommend this book to anyone who considers themselves to be an animal rights activist, as there is a whole chapter dedicated to McCrea's extended campaign to oppose such groups. They are mentioned in an aggressive and uncomplimentary manner, and I can envisage this causing offence to some readers. While McCrea receives (and delivers) a lot of verbal abuse, expletives are tastefully censored. Readers sensitive to issues such as hunting and animal suffering might find the book objectionable, as McCrea comes across these things regularly as part and parcel of the job.
The writing was straightforward and fairly engaging. My only complaint in terms of style was that the structure was not particularly well-considered. McCrea jumped about frequently in time and space, often from paragraph to paragraph, in a distracting manner. The chapters that worked best were those in which the author stuck to one time period or event. The formatting of the book is excellent, with a nice layout and several photographs at the halfway point which help the reader to visualise the context. I spotted two errors in punctuation: a misplaced apostrophe and a missing comma. Apart from these minor errors, the book was expertly edited.
In conclusion, I found The Forgotten Lawmen Part 1 to be a bit of a disappointment, and I will not be rushing out to purchase Part 2. Perhaps somebody with a greater interest in the day-to-day workings of a game warden, or with a mindset closer to McCrea's own would find more of value in the book. While McCrea delivers some funny and exciting anecdotes, I soon found the repetitive nature of the book and its overall negative, cavilling tone off-putting. I would give The Forgotten Lawmen Part 1 2 out of 4 stars because of its uneven quality.
The Forgotten Lawmen Part 1
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