in Wilmington, NC, on December 29, 1915: journalist, author, world traveler, sportsman, and syndicated columnist
Robert Chester Ruark. He entered
college at the age of 15 at the University of North Carolina, graduating with an A.B. in journalism in 1935. He worked as a reporter for the Hamlet News
Messenger and later transferred to the Sanford Herald.
next few years, Ruark worked as an accountant with the Works Progress
Administration (WPA) in Washington, D.C., enlisted in the Navy as an ordinary seaman, and
worked at the Washington Post and the Star before settling
down at the Washington Daily News. In 1938, he married Virginia Webb,
a Washington interior decorator.
During World War II, Ruark joined the Navy as a gunnery officer and later
became a press censor in the Pacific. He returned to the Washington Daily
News in 1945, where his syndicated column made him a household name and
earned him the then unheard of sum of $40,000 a year. In his column, Ruark
revealed a gift for expressing aversion both facetiously and ungrammatically,
poking fun at his uneducated "hick."
He aimed his stinging wit at psychiatrists, Southern
cooking, army generals, the state of Texas, progressive schools, scheming
women, and other pet peeves. His sharpest assaults were collected in two
books, I Didnít Know It Was Loaded (1948) and One for the Road
His first novel,
Grenadine Etching (1947), lampooned historical romances that were all
the rage at the time. The book was followed by Grenadineís Spawn (1952). He
also contributed regularly to magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post,
Colliers, Esquire, and Field & Stream.
After 1950, Ruark began
taking trips to Africa. He published Horn of
the Hunter: The Story of an African Hunt (1953), about an African
safari, and Something of Value (1955). Based on the Mau-Mau uprisings
against British colonialists, Value took its title from an old Basuto proverb: "If a man does away with his traditional way of living and
throws away his good customs, he had better first make certain that he has
something of value to replace them." The book was a major success, earning
the author more than a million dollars from royalties and film rights.
Some critics disparaged Ruark as a Hemingway imitator. The
stylistic similarities are unmistakable, as are their lifestyles. Other
critics decried the shocking violence in his
African novels. Nonetheless, his writing--despite its Hemingway-like
overtones--has stood the test of time.
Ruark once said, "There was a time when I would go anywhere, eat airline
food...chase elephants on horseback, slug athletes, enjoy being jailed, and
wrestle with leopards, all for love of the newspaper business."
Besides his newspaper columns and novels, Ruark wrote for years a monthly
magazine column for
Field & Stream called "The Old Man and The Boy" in which he recounted
his experiences growing up on the North Carolina coast in and around
Southport under the tender guidance of his grandfather, who taught him the
art of hunting, fishing, and training dogs. These columns were subsequently
collected in two books, The Old Man and the Boy (1957) and The Old
Manís Boy Grows Older (1961), which chronicled the boyhood lessons he
had learned that taught him compassion, integrity, tolerance, and a deep and abiding love for
After visiting North Carolina in 1957, Ruark settled permanently in
Spain, where he produced three more books. Poor No More (1959) was an
embittered rags-to-riches saga set in the U.S. and Europe. It was followed
in 1962 by Uhuru, the sequel to Something of Value. His
last book, published
shortly after his death, was The Honey Badger (1965). It was
about a North Carolina writer torn between work and women.
Robert Ruark died
unexpectedly in London in 1965 and is buried in Palamos, north of Barcelona.
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