It’s a Bit Rugged, Mate is best described in ‘Big Al’ Lester’s own words — “this book is a catch-up for those who missed out on reading earlier books, which are mostly out of print now. The stories are the majority of the yarns from the first three books: Hunting in the Raw, A Bum in the Bush and A Hard Shot in the Hills. Very few deer, tahr, pigs or other animals get shot, due to being pretty bloody useless hunters who are simply out there having a great time and enjoying the mountains.”
This description just about perfectly sums up this book, a compilation of the best yarns from his earlier titles.
Anyone who likes the ‘odd’ beer (or more), pig or deer hunting, some high jinks, and expedition style trips into wilderness areas is ‘alright’ by Big Al, and that formula is the foundation of his hunting and so too his books.
At 416 pages and comprising 32 chapters, this book offers a generous amount of reading material of largely text, supplemented by 8 plates of 20 colour photos that showcase various hunting friends mentioned in the book (in humorous poses) and a few back-country scenes and vistas.
Focused on mishaps, humour and comedic events which often occur when hunting, this book is in the spirit of Barry Crump’s Good Keen Man (1960) and Connor McKenzie’s Stags in the Mist, Voices on the Wind and Other Stories (2014). That is, facts don’t get in the way of a good story.
Big Al has a conversational and casual manner to his writing, making his books easy to read and enjoyable.
Big Al’s books are ideally read in sequence, however as this book essentially covers off the first three books and the early days, where Big Al started out in the hunting game, you can move straight from It’s a Bit Rugged, Mate onto his 4th book, Off the Track (2008) with ease. This compilation also introduces you to the many and various hunting mates whom often are central to each chapter.
This is a recommended read which can happily sit on your bedside table to be picked up for light amusement whenever suits.
Other books in the ‘Big Al’ series are Hunting in the Raw, Yarns from the Great NZ Outdoors (2003), A Bum in the Bush (2004), A Hard Shot in the Hills (2006), Off the Track, more Tales from the New Zealand Bush (2008), Arse-Up Creek, Bush Lies and Half Truths (2010), A Sting in the Tale, the Best of the Bush from Big Al Lester (2011) and Mad Men of the Mountains, more Bush Lies and Half Truths (2013).
The Hunter’s recommendation is: buy it
The Hunter’s ratings are:
- Overall rating: 5.5 out of 10
- Photos and illustrations: 2.5 out of 5
- Trophy quality: 1 out of 5
- Writing quality and style: 4 out of 5
- Page-turner status: 3.5 out of 5
For your information the following is the book’s blurb:
Once described as ‘Barry Crump meets Fred Dagg’, ‘Big Al’ Lester is the modern-day master of the hunting genre. ‘I’m often asked what inspired me to take up writing yarns about the mishaps and mayhem that I have endured while venturing into the New Zealand bush.’ ‘In truth, I am an average to poor hunter who has had more hunting cock-ups than the rest of the country combined. For every deer I’ve successfully shot, dozens have escaped only to hide in the bush peering back at me, clearly laughing at my stupidity. I have always managed to see the funny side of the situation and had a good old laugh at myself. I began to wonder if my stuff-ups, with a bit of humour and mayhem thrown in, might just make for good reading – the oddball, unusual, humorous, weird and fun side of hunting – and gave it a go. I must have got something right.’—’Big Al’ Lester It’s a Bit Rugged, Mate compiles the biggest and best yarns from Big Al’s first three books – plenty of fun for those with a good keen sense of humour and a love for New Zealand’s wild outdoors.
Bibliographic informationTitle: It’s a Bit Rugged, Mate
Author: Big Al Lester (1960–)
Publisher: Raupo (Penguin Group), Auckland, New Zealand
ISBN: 0143572008, 9780143572008
Format: Paperback, 416 pages, illustrations (some colour), 24 cm
Book review of It’s a Bit Rugged, Mate by Big Al Lester book review