Robert Ruark


Robert Ruark

Robert Ruark (born December 29, 1915 in Wilmington, North Carolina–died July 1, 1965 in London, England) was an American journalist, traveler, and author.

Robert Ruark began his career in 1935, graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in journalism, and working at the "Hamlet News Messenger" and later the "Sanford Herald" in North Carolina. Ruark then worked as an accountant, and later an officer in the United States Navy during WW2. Upon his return, he became a syndicated columnist. Some of his contemplative thoughts were eventually collected into two books, "I Didn't Know It Was Loaded" (1948) and "One for the Road" (1949).

As he grew in notoriety, Ruark began to write fiction; first for literary magazines, and then his first novel, "Grenadine Etching" in 1947. The novel parodied the popular historical romances of time and set the stage for his many humorous novels and articles published in the "Saturday Evening Post", "Esquire", and other popular publications.

In 1953, Ruark began writing a series for "Field & Stream" magazine entitled "The Old Man and the Boy". Considered largely autobiographical (although technically fiction), this heartwarming series ran until late 1961. Many of the articles in the series were collected into a book of the same name, followed shortly thereafter by another companion book entitled "The Old Man's Boy Grows Older". The stories were punctuated by the philosophical musings of the "Old Man", who was a character modelled after both of Ruark's grandfathers, though based mostly on Ned Adkins, Ruark's maternal grandfather. In the stories, young Bob Ruark grows up hunting and fishing in coastal North Carolina, always guided by the Old Man. However, the pain of his parents' difficult domestic life and his relatively few childhood friends - Ruark, something of a child prodigy in school, was a loner - are tellingly absent from the stories. Today these two books are his best remembered works; his other novels are long out of print.

Ruark's first bestselling novel was published in 1955. It was entitled "Something of Value" and was about the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya Colony, East Africa. The novel drew from the author's personal knowledge and experiences on safari in Africa and was adapted into a successful 1957 film. Later [1962] , Ruark delivered "Uhuru", a continuing and similar theme, but not intended to be a sequel. "Uhuru" is the Swahili word for "freedom". He had intended to write a final chapter in the series with the working title of "A Long View From a Tall Hill", but this never materialized. A later biography of Ruark written by Terry Weiland used a derivative of this for a title of his publication.

After he began to gain success as a writer, Ruark decided that it was time to fulfill a lifelong dream to go on safari to Africa. Legendary Ker and Downey Safaris booked him with Harry Selby, and Ruark began a love affair with Africa. It is interesting to note that Ruark was booked with Selby because of a desire to use a tracker named Kidogo, who had hunted with Ernest Hemingway on an earlier safari. Ruark's pairing with Selby, though fortuitous, was merely luck. Kidogo was a member of Selby's crew.

As a result of this first safari, Ruark wrote a book called "Horn of the Hunter", in which he detailed his hunt. Selby became an overnight legend and was subsequently booked for up to five years in advance by Americans wishing to duplicate Ruark's adventures. After the first safari, Selby and Ruark again went out hunting, and this time they took cameras along. The result was a one hour documentary entitled "Africa Adventure", released by RKO pictures. Though extremely hard to find, a 16mm print of this movie was discovered in around 2002 and a DVD copy was created and donated to the Robert Ruark Foundation in Southport, NC.

After his first half dozen books or so, Ruark continued to write, though few of his subsequent novels surpassed his early successes. Ruark moved to Spain in 1960 after a bittersweet visit to his hometown of Wilmington NC. He died in London, England on July 1, 1965 most likely as a result of alcoholism. His last novel, "The Honey Badger", exemplified the personal condition of the author at this time in his life. Indeed, this book was published posthumously, as was "Use Enough Gun", which is essentially a collection of segments from his earlier works. More notable are the two collections published by McIntosh and Casada, both of which are quite representative of Ruark's finest work.

In 1938 Ruark married Virginia Webb, an interior designer from an upper middle-class family in the Washington DC area and a graduate of Georgetown University. Married for over 20 years, they had no children and divorced a few years before his death. Virginia Webb-Ruark died a year after Ruark.
Robert Ruark is buried in Palamos, Spain.

Bibliography

*"Grenadine Etching" (1947)
*"I Didn't Know It Was Loaded" (1949)
*"One for the Road" (1949)
*"Grenadine's Spawn" (1952)
*"Horn of the Hunter" (1953)
*"Something of Value" (1955)
*"The Old Man and the Boy" (1957)
*"Poor No More" (1959)
*"The Old Man's Boy Grows Older" (1961)
*"Uhuru" (1962)
*"The Honey Badger" (1965)
*"Use Enough Gun: On Hunting Big Game" (1966)
*"Women" (1967)
*"Robert Ruark's Africa" by Michael McIntosh (1991), collection of Ruark's magazine articles
*"The Lost Classics" by Robert Ruark (1996), additional hunting adventures

Also:
*"A View from a Tall Hill: Robert Ruark in Africa" by Terry Wieland (2004); despite the title, this is a biography of Ruark's whole life and writings
*"Someone of Value: A Biography of Robert Ruark" by Hugh Foster
*"Ruark Remembered: By the Man Who Knew Him Best" by Alan Ritchie (October 2007)

Filmography

*"Africa Adventure" (1955-56) "narrator, writer, and director"

References

http://www.starnewsonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060108/NEWS/60109004/1050/AE provides some insight on Ruarks life and family background.


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