Roderick L(angmere) Haig-Brown 1908–1976
British-born Canadian author of fiction and nonfiction for young adults and adults.
Like his father, who published a book on wildlife and fishing in 1913, Haig-Brown loved nature. It was a subject he knew thoroughly from his studies and experiences living and working in wilderness areas. At the age of seventeen, Haig-Brown emigrated from England to the Pacific Northwest, where he worked as a professional hunter, logger, trapper, and guide. In 1934 he settled at Campbell River, British Columbia and divided his time between hunting, fishing, observation of the land and its animal life, and writing. The nearly twenty-five works of fiction and nonfiction that Haig-Brown has written reflect his appreciation of the beauty of his adopted country. His nonfiction, particularly those works on angling, rivers, and fish, are considered his greatest achievements.
As a writer, Haig-Brown sought to share some of the great pleasures he had experienced in years of fishing, hunting, and observing wildlife. He was unquestionably successful; his A River Never Sleeps and Return to the River are classics of naturalist literature, unusual in their poetic descriptions. Like many of his other books, these describe nature with drama and authenticity and recreate the feelings and thoughts evoked by Haig-Brown's close contact with its beauty. While full of practical instruction and information for outdoorsmen, Haig-Brown's nonfiction is often read for its literate and inspired accounts of the calm and comfort to be found in nature.
Most of Haig-Brown's fictional heroes reflect his love and respect for the land. Themes of friendship, courage, trust, growth, integrity, and strength are explored against a wilderness setting. Timber, an acclaimed adult novel, is the story of the friendship of two young men who face great physical danger each day in their work as loggers. Considered sensitive and realistic, it is also a portrait of men reacting to the elemental beauties and dangers of their environment in the face of challenge and change. Haig-Brown's popular young adult novels Starbuck Valley Winter and Saltwater Summer pursue similar themes.
Haig-Brown sought to challenge his readers as well as to entertain them. His excellent critical reception is an indication that he was successful on both counts. He is acclaimed for the poetic dimension to naturalist writing and his well-constructed prose. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 5-8, rev. ed.; obituary, Vols. 69-72, and Something About the Author, Vol. 12.)