J.A. Baker: The Peregrine 50th Anniversary Edition
Regular readers will know that one of my favourite books is The Peregrine by J.A. Baker. First published in 1967, it’s now received recognition of its importance to literature and wildlife conservation with a 50th Anniversary Edition courtesy of Harper Collins. I’ve written about this book several times before, recommending it unreservedly, but should you require any further convincing then read Robert McFarlane’s superb article on the book and the man who wrote it, published last week in The Guardian. McFarlane articulates the attributes of the author and his work with authentic passion and precision of clarity, and has clearly saturated his mind in Barker’s singular prose, stating that “I’ve never taken LSD: thanks to Baker, I don’t need to.” He’s right. Baker was high on his own supply, dreaming of flight, of actually becoming a falcon, lifting his spirit up out of his arthritic cage of bone and away from the Essex landscape that he loved but could already see being stripped away in the name of “progress.” It’s a dark book, for sure, but that’s because Baker refused to shy away from the lonely business of death which, let’s face it, is what a bird of prey is all about. I’m encouraged to see that Baker will soon get his first biography, My House Of Sky by Hetty Saunders, to be published by the excellent Little Toller books later this year and with the renewed emphasis on his work I am increasingly confident that this reserved and humble man will finally get the recognition he deserves as one of the great literature writers of our time.
Here’s my 2017 drawing of a Peregrine Falcon:
And this is my mock-up cover for Baker’s book, using my 2013 drawing ‘The Peregrine’: