Mr. Hornaday's War by Stefan Bechtel
How a Peculiar Victorian Zookeeper Waged a Lonely Crusade for Wildlife That Changed the World

60%

8 Critic Reviews

Many of the passages about conservation are repetitive, and Bechtel’s tone varies as he clearly struggles with his admiration for Hornaday’s efforts to preserve wildlife and his misgivings about the hunting of animals for display.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

He was complex, quirky, pugnacious, and difficult. He seemed to create enemies wherever he went, even among his friends. A fireplug of a man who stood only five feet eight inches in his stocking feet, he had an outsized ambition to make his mark on the world. And he did. William Temple Hornaday (1854-1937) was probably the most famous conservationist of the nineteenth century, second only to his great friend and ally Theodore Roosevelt. Hornaday's great passion was protecting wild things and wild places, and he spent most of his adult life in a state of war on their behalf, as a taxidermist and museum collector; as the founder and first director of the National Zoo in Washington, DC; as director of the Bronx Zoo for thirty years; and as the author of nearly two dozen books on conservation and wildlife. But in Mr. Hornaday's War, the long-overdue biography of Hornaday by journalist Stefan Bechtel, the grinding contradictions of Hornaday's life also become clear. Though he is credited with saving the American bison from extinction, he began his career as a rifleman and trophy hunter who led "the last buffalo hunt" into the Montana Territory. And what happened in 1906 at the Bronx Zoo, when Hornaday displayed an African man in a cage, shows a side of him that is as baffling as it is repellent. This gripping new book takes an honest look at a fascinating and enigmatic man.
 

About Stefan Bechtel

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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.
 
Published May 15, 2012 by Beacon Press. 265 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Nature & Wildlife, Science & Math. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Mr. Hornaday's War
All: 8 | Positive: 4 | Negative: 4

Kirkus

Below average
Apr 01 2012

Many of the passages about conservation are repetitive, and Bechtel’s tone varies as he clearly struggles with his admiration for Hornaday’s efforts to preserve wildlife and his misgivings about the hunting of animals for display.

Read Full Review of Mr. Hornaday's War: How a Pe... | See more reviews from Kirkus

Publishers Weekly

Excellent
Feb 20 2012

This brief, entertaining biography...offers a lively treatment of a singular life.

Read Full Review of Mr. Hornaday's War: How a Pe... | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

City Book Review

Excellent
Reviewed by Gwen Stackler on Aug 09 2012

Stefan Bechtel brings the man and his contradictions to the twenty-first century in a timely biography of a man that should be celebrated, as opposed to being a footnote in animal conservation history.

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Macleans

Excellent
Reviewed by Brian Bethune on Jun 01 2012

Bechtel...rightly admires not just Hornaday’s immense energy but his ethics, his uphill crusade to instill a sense of moral responsibility into the American attitude toward wild animals...

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Science News

Below average
Reviewed by Janet Raloff on Jun 30 2012

Bechtel doesn’t present Hornaday as a saint. But a full accounting of this complex man probably deserves a little deeper probing into events that seem to dirty Hornaday’s otherwise fairly white hat — like his inability to understand the hullabaloo over his short-term display of a homeless pygmy in his zoo’s monkey house.

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Bismark Tribune

Excellent
Reviewed by Jeff Towner on Jul 01 2012

Although this is not a massive biography (219 pages), it is not possible to do it justice in a review. For anyone who has any interest in wildlife, “Mr. Hornaday's War” is essential reading.

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True West

Below average
Jun 12 2012

Bechtel is a good, if breathless, storyteller, and he does not whitewash Hornaday’s elitism. But he also does not have the sensibilities of a historian—he invents dialogue and is not quite up-to-date on the bison story at the heart of this book.

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Below average
Reviewed by Nicola Mansfield on May 29 2012

I was not able to finish this book... I found that it plodded along very slowly.

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Reader Rating for Mr. Hornaday's War
87%

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