Hardbound : 232 pp.
Simon & Schuster $24
I can't remember a time when I wasn't reading McManus tales. They attended my fishing from when I was just a tadpole of a flyfisher. You might even say they helped me take myself less seriously as I stumbled along trying to live a sporting life. Thankfully, I didn't come to resemble one of the subjects of his hilarious tales (that is, if you don't talk to my wife).
I like how McManus finds humor in the mundane, in the fireplace, the bad coffee, the deer hunts that don't produce, the snow, dog flatulence and small fish. High technology doesn't escape his pen's eye either. GPS, blackberry devices, and the internet all fall to his humor. If you plan on using anything out of the ordinary, or doing anything out of the ordinary, look behind you first. McManus may be nearby.
His character sketches are particularly fetching. Everyone will enjoy Rancid Crabtree (with a name like that, how could anyone not?), the techno-compulsive Lenny, and the other characters that color McManus' life--and now ours. What happens to these characters at the end of these stories is always engaging and startling, like the perfect fishing trip that ends up being, well, I shouldn't say. I don't want to give away precious endings, since it is the way he ends his tales, with unseen twists and turns, that makes them precious to read.
What McManus has also mastered is the one-liner. No one casts a line out like McManus, such as the clever banter about the evolution of creeks into cricks and back. You can carry these along with you on your next camping trip to amuse and impress your friends, or to help chase away the evening doldrums..
What I like, too, about McManus is the shortness of his tales. About the only thing that is better than a great tale, is a great short tale. You can read one of these gems in between shows on TV, before the fading light at night, between an evening tie in front of your vice. His pointed vignettes will always catch you by surprise and delight for a long time. Take a breather from your long days of small fish, and read a few from one of the Mark Twains of a modern sporting life.
--Toney J. Sisk
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