The Last Pool and Other Stories
The Last Pool and Other Stories is a 1950 collection of short stories by novelist and writer Patrick O'Brian. It was his first published book under the name Patrick O'Brian (though he had published several works under his birth name Patrick Russ as a teenager).The thirteen stories are largely about rural experiences, focusing on fishing hunting, shooting, and the experiences surrounding those rural pastimes. Published by Secker and Warburg, the collection included several stories that would later be republished in The Walker and other stories. The collection was both a critical and financial success for O'Brian.
The following short stories were included in the collection:
- "The Last Pool"
- "The Green creature"
- "The Returns"
- "The Happy despatch"
- "The Virtuous Pelga"
- "The Drawing of the Curranwood badgers"
- "It must have been a branch, they said"
- "The Steep slope of Gally y Wenallt"
- "The Long day running"
- "Name calls"
- "The Dawn flighting"
- "The Trap"
- "The Little death"
Themes and style
Writer and critic Steve Bodio described the stories as "some straight forward," and "some supernatural" and "uncanny" in the line of tales by T.H. White from the 1930s and Geoffrey Household from the 1950s. Bodio describes the stories as having a "touch of terror."
The novel was published while O'Brian claimed Irish descent, thus some reviewers focused on his "Irish" elements within the work. Bodio describes the novel as capturing something "Irish", in its "uncanny atmosphere". Contemporary reviews of the book highlight this Irishness; for example, an Observer reviewer wrote "This Charming book by an Irish sportsman is a genuine collection of tales of the Irish countryside."
Reception and success
Generally, reviews of the collection were favorable. Both The Irish Times and Irish novelist and playwright Lord Dunsany in The Observer gave positive reviews. Similarly, The Western Morning News described the collection as taking "their tense drama in hunting, fishing and shooting, and their realism in the author's intimate knowledge." Moreover, the reviewer particularly like the story "The Trap" that had "rare poetical qualities" and "exhibits a fine sene of period and of the mind of a dolish poacher". In his book recommending the best Fishing and Hunting literature Sportsman's Library, writer and critic Steve Bodio described O'Brian's stories in The Last Pool as "some of the best fishing and hunting writing I have scene".
The sales of the novel gave O'Brian more confidence in his writing, and he earned £30 beyond the advance from publisher Secker and Warburg. According to his biographer, Dean King, O'Brian used the advance to pay for hot water and electricity for the flat that O'Brian was living in with his wife.
- King, Dean (2001). Patrick O'Brian: A Life. Macmillan. pp. 144–145. ISBN 9780805059779.
- A.E. Cunningham, ed. (1994). "Bibliography". Patrick O'Brian: Critical Essays and a Bibliography. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 119. ISBN 9780393036268.
- Bodio, Stephen (2013-04-02). Sportsman's Library: 100 Essential, Engaging, Offbeat, and Occasionally Odd Fishing and Hunting Books for the Adventurous Reader. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 54-56. ISBN 9780762794034.
- Cook-Lynn, Elizabeth (2001). Anti-Indianism in Modern America: A Voice from Tatekeya's Earth. University of Illinois Press. p. 88. ISBN 9780252026621.
- "New Books: Pilgrim Ways in West". The Western Morning News. British Newspaper Archive. 23 August 1950.