My book, Inglorious – conflict in the uplands was published almost exactly two years ago in hardback, and almost exactly a year ago, in an updated paperback edition (pictured above) . I still haven’t made my fortune from it but it has sold well – over 5000 copies.
It’s not a book about Hen Harriers, it is a book about grouse shooting and why we should ban it. But it does feature the Hen Harrier quite a bit because that marvellous bird is the entry point for many into the debate over the uplands, rewilding, grouse shooting etc. Over the last three Sundays I’ve reviewed three very different books which overlap in subject matter with mine, but take a different perspective (The Hen Harrier by Donald Watson; Bowland Beth by David Cobham and Sky Dancer by Gill Lewis).
Books can be powerful things – they can inspire and irritate and energise and anger and…they can do almost anything. I was inspired by Donald Watson’s The Hen Harrier 40 years ago and I was touched and thrilled when Gill Lewis told me that Inglorious was partly responsible for inspiring her book, Sky Dancer.
Those guys who protected the Pallid Harriers in the Netherlands this year told me that Inglorious was one of their favourite books too – that came as a surprise. And they also said that Dutch ornithologists and birders were surprised when they read my book to discover the scale of wildlife crime going on in the uplands of the UK. They thought of the UK as a leader in nature conservation and were shocked by the attitude of upland land owners to birds of prey and the scale of the killing.
Last October I offered free copies of Inglorious to all MPs on the Petitions Committee ahead of the debate – but they declined the opportunity to learn more about the subject. I thought that was a little odd.
As far as I am aware, the shooting press did not review Inglorious – has anyone seen a review in The Field, The Shooting Times or elsewhere? I haven’t. That’s something of a compliment, I reckon. The trouble with reviewing a book, even hammering it as I am sure they would have wanted to do, is that it is likely to drive a few more people to read it! Similarly, I feel quite chuffed that no reviews appeared in The Telegraph, The Times or the Daily Mail.
Less constraint was shown by some on Amazon where Inglorious recently passed 50 reviews: 37 5-star reviews, 6 4-star reviews and 9 1-star reviews. I’m grateful to all who have reviewed it positively but those who slammed it helped to show that this was a book that was serious and interesting! Just for interest, 36 of the 43 positive reviews were from ‘verified purchasers’ of Inglorious (Amazon knew the reviewer had bought the book from them), whereas only 2 of the 9 unfavourable reviews were from ‘verified purchasers’ (and one of those was a very positive review – I think the reviewer forgot to click on 5-stars before posting the review!). A count of 44 favourable to 8 unfavourable seems pretty good.
Chris Packham on Twitter (@ChrisGPackham): ‘If you read one book this summer make it ‘Inglorious‘ by @MarkAvery‘
Chris Packham from the Foreword to Inglorious: ‘I like Mark Avery’s outlook and attitude. He’s fairly unique among conservationists for two important reasons – he doesn’t sit on the fence,and he doesn’t pull his punches. Thus he isn’t afraid to say it like it is and doesn’t shy away from a fight.‘ and ‘So when we are told by the shooting fraternity that they are ‘looking after the uplands’ the joke simply isn’t funny any more. They burn it, drain it, poison it, denude it of any life that may possibly harm a grouse, and then kill the grouse themselves. How absurd.‘
Charlie Elder in BBC Wildlife magazine (who made Inglorious their Book of the Month): ‘expansive in scope yet forensic in detail‘ and ‘clearly reasoned and well-written‘ and that the idea of a ban on driven grouse shooting is a ‘powerful message and one that is increasingly capturing the public’s imagination‘.
James Attlee in the Independent ‘ Avery is a reasonable man; by his own admission “a wishy-washy liberal” who has engaged in fruitless years of dialogue with the grouse-shooting industry in his efforts to gain concessions. Once roused, however, he proves indefatigable. So far the political connections and powerful lobbying of the industry has maintained the status quo, but public opinion seems to have shifted ‘ see full review here
Ceri Levy in Caught by the river ‘Inglorious is a logical and well-conceived book and the only conclusion I can draw is that now is the moment to ban driven grouse shooting as a sport forever and then finally we can sort the moors out.‘ and ‘It is a whodunnit, a murder mystery in which we know who did it from the start but we stick with the author as he tells the story in such an engaging manner that we find ourselves within a tome which by turn is a social commentary, a wildlife disaster tale, a story of the haves and have nots, a history book of the UK and an explanation of what driven grouse shooting consists of and the measures taken to ensure its grisly success.‘ see full review here.
Raptor Persecution Scotland blog ‘compelling clarity‘ and ‘His isn’t the view of someone uninformed and with a shallow understanding, hitching a ride on the back of an increasing public awareness of ‘wildlife crime’; this is the view of someone with authoritative credibility earned through his intimate involvement over many years in UK nature conservation policies.‘ and ‘Inglorious bears all the hallmarks of Mark’s writing: engaging, intelligent, thoughtful, insightful, articulate, well-reasoned, fair and good humoured.’ see full review here.
Michael McCarthy in the Independent: ‘The conclusion of his riveting book is simple: driven grouse shooting requires the suppression of hen harriers, which is a crime, and so should itself be outlawed. The logic is impeccable.’ see full review here.
Charlie Moores on Birdguides: ‘It is a surgical dissection by a writer at the top of his game‘ and ‘Inglorious is a remarkable book. Established ‘sporting’ practices have rarely been challenged like this or come under such clear-eyed scrutiny — and even more rarely in a book aimed squarely at the everyday birder and general public rather than specialists. Anyone with the slightest interest in why we’re missing so many Hen Harriers from upland moorlands and why we’re increasingly hearing concerns about the state of some of our most beautiful countryside, really should read this book.’ see full review here.
Andy Stoddart on Rare Bird Alert: ‘The treatment … is comprehensive and authoritative, drawing on the author’s extensive personal experience as well as detailed research, and it is hard to disagree with his conclusions. ‘ see full review here.
Chris Packham in conversation with Charlie Moores on the Talking Naturally podcast: ‘What Mark’s done is to put the facts down on the page and so everyone can make their minds up. And I’ll be very surprised if they read that book and think that driven grouse shooting is still a good idea in the 21st century‘ and ‘The book is symbolic of the age that we’re living in. It’s an age of increased activism.‘
John Riutta, The Well-Read Naturalist: ‘To read Inglorious is to allow yourself to be challenged; challenged to think deeply, to interweave what were previously unconnected bits of information into intricate tapestries of understanding, to seek answers to questions that extend far beyond the upland heathered moors and into the heart of just what the conservation of nature truly means. It’s a challenge well worth accepting.‘ see full review here.
I’m pretty sure that there will be some attending Hen Harrier Day events this year on the 5th August and 6th August whose interest was ignited by the spark of Inglorious – I hope so.
And there will be many who have also supported Findlay Wilde’s thunderclap, as have so many others who love this bird and want its persecution to end.
Buy Inglorious direct from Blackwell’s – a proper bookshop (and I’ll get a little bit of money from them)