CAVE, Robert

Robert Bruce Cave of California privately published an exhaustive summary, Roderick Haig-Brown: A Descriptive Bibliography, in 2000.

Roderick Haig-Brown: A Descriptive Bibliography ($95. U.S.)

On a lovely autumn day in (I think) 1958, I was deep into a conversation about ‘hip’ versus ‘beat’ with a delightful and wonderfully opinionated New Yorker. This New Yorker had been a senior editor for the New York Times and, to a provincial lad like myself, he seemed a formidable intellect indeed. I can still remember our ‘beat/hip’ argument (probably based on Norman Mailer’s essay of a similar name) but I don’t remember that editor’s name. Our conversation was interrupted that day by the appearance of Roderick Haig-Brown. He had found my tiny bookstore in Courtenay since it was then the only serious (pretentious?) bookstore on the Island north of Victoria. In those days I knew Roderick Haig-Brown, the Campbell River lay magistrate, only as a nature writer, and a regional one at that, well known among sports fishermen and natural history buffs. Unquestionably well regarded, but more Charlie White than Isaac Walton. On a later visit I asked him to sign a few of his books that I’d just acquired. He did, with pleasure, but admitted that he couldn’t really understand why anyone would want his inscription. When I reminded him that some of his books were limited and signed, he shrugged and said he still couldn’t understand it—and anyway that was the doing of publishers, not authors.

As a bookseller in British Columbia, I’ve always been aware that he was a collected author, with a strong following among fishermen, and (I thought), a modest following beyond the Pacific Northwest, but not much else. Haig-Brown himself feared he’d be pretty much forgotten after his death. By checking the Net I’ve found that there are now dozens of Haig-Brown fan clubs worldwide, collectors by the hundreds, and thousands of readers of his ‘never out of print’ books - indeed, there’s still some two dozen of his titles still available in print. And they’re by no means just books on fishing and nature; his novels, essays and children’s books are equally sought after.

Now a Haig-Brown aficionado, Robert Cave, has paid Haig-Brown the supreme posthumous compliment by presenting a comprehensive bibliography of his works, Roderick Haig-Brown: A Descriptive Bibliography. I found it on the Internet after the author had posted a brief notice on BooksCanada. I responded, and have since been amazed by what I’ve discovered. Handsomely printed in a burgundy cloth and gray dust jacket, and illustrated, it’s a beautiful and authoritative reference, 15 years in the making. The price, like all bibliographies, is high at $95 (US), but well worth it. For those who can make it to Victoria in May, it will be available at the 2nd Annual Victoria Antiquarian Book Fair, May 5th and 6th. In attendance will be Robert Cave, Valerie Haig-Brown, who has edited much of her father’s unfinished work, as well Haig-Brown collectors from all over British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest. For info, call 250-598-9355.

[Kim Whale / BCBW 2000]