In The Shadow Of The Falcon

I’ve mocked-up this cover, using my recently-completed painting ‘The Hill Of Summer‘ as the basis for the design. Clarkson’s book is a forgotten classic of ‘nature writing’, published in an era before there was even such a bandwagon for publishers and writers to jump on. My dog-eared Arrow paperback edition is from 1975, when I was 7 years old and dividing my time between Marvel Comics, TV21 annuals and books like Kes and Tarka The Otter. The former things have indeed passed away, but I still read books about birds of prey and remote windswept places with a sense of awe and yearning. The Arrow edition featured pen and ink illustrations by Victor Ambrus, whose line work has a Steadman-esque scratch and splatter about it.

The drawings seem to have been informed by the same sense of simmering fury that Clarkson sustains throughout the book as he witnesses the damage done to his beloved Peregrine Falcons…

…”always in the background there is man… with his guns, his traps, his poisons, and his blind, unthinking talent for destruction.” Clarkson was writing in the early 70’s, when the fate of the Peregrine in Britain still hung in the balance. J.A. Baker has already written a eulogy for the species in the late 60’s, and it’s extinction on This Septic Isle seemed an inevitability, so it’s a strange feeling to read this in an era when the species is making a resurgence, expanding its territory in towns and cities. We should not be complacent, but it is a lesson in the endurance ‘nature’ has, especially when we learn to leave it alone and do what it does best. If this book ever gets republished (and with the current fad for ‘nature writing’ it seems to me like an ideal candidate for “rediscovery”) I would love to do the cover and the internal illustrations.


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