The Wild Duck Chase. Inside the Strange and Wonderful World of the Federal Duck Stamp Contest. Martin J. Smith. Walker and Company, New York. 262 pp. $25.
Despite a resemblance to the subtitle of Hunter S. Thompson’s Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga, this is an uplifting and positive book about a program aimed at preserving and “ensuring the future of wetlands habitat conservation in America …” And the way to do it is buy a duck stamp for a mere $15. According to www.duckstamp.com, 98 cents of every dollar goes toward the purchase of wetlands.
What the author, Marty Smith, has done is provided not just background on the program, but given us some nitty gritty as he follows several artists in their quest to win the annual contest. For example, you will learn about the Hautman brothers, who combined have won the competition at least 10 times since 1989. I know that because even though the story is based on the 2011 competition, Smith was able to include a list of winners through 2012. And even if he hadn’t, you would have Googled “duck stamp contest” to find out.
Smith has written a good book at about the right length. He was one of my students when I was a beginning journalism instructor. It’s nice to see that I did no harm.