Book cover of of Small Game Hunter by Peter Smithers

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Peter Smithers

Brambleby Books


ISBN: 9781908241702 (paperback)

Reviewed by Richard Harrington

Sssh! I don’t always read right through the books I review. This one, though, I did, partly because I have known Peter Smithers for many years and have had first-hand experience of his ripping yarns, especially over an ale or three, and partly because he has contributed so much to the Royal Entomological Society, including as editor of Antenna, that I was pretty sure the Society would get a few good mentions. For these and other reasons, I was not disappointed.  

This is an entomological autobiography. Sorry, it’s an entomological/arachnological autobiography. It describes Peter’s searches for, and encounters with, various invertebrates. The book’s clever title is apposite. It also describes encounters with a range of fascinating, and sometimes famous, people. The first five chapters are taxonomically based: moths & butterflies; dragonflies, damselflies & other aquatic insects; spiders; flies; and beetles, grasshoppers, crickets & miscellaneous others. Whilst Peter has considerable knowledge and experience of all of these, it is clear from the chapter lengths alone that his greatest love is for the spiders, and this comes over in the writing, too.  

Peter has been a strong proponent of including insects in the human diet as a way of feeding the ever-growing population. He founded the Insects as Food and Feed Special Interest Group and remains a leading light in the world of entomophagy. Chapter 6 covers this aspect of his work. He has also been a pioneer in entomological outreach and in fostering links between entomology and the arts, topics covered in Chapters 7 and 8. The latter even includes an opera based on the life of former RES President, Miriam Rothschild. The final chapter is the call to arms that features at the end of many natural history books and documentaries. Our natural world is precious and we must look after it. Nothing new here, but it can’t be said too often and Peter puts it nicely. ‘Looking at the world through other people’s eyes will reveal new wonders.’  

The book comprises 169 pages and includes a few, but not many, pictures. More are not needed – Peter’s words paint fine pictures. I found some of the typos a little irksome but do they really matter to anyone other than a pedantic Antenna editor? 

I think Peter must keep a diary. Either that, or he’s got a brilliant memory for anecdotes. They are well told. Many entomologists who have been in the game for as long as he has will have had equally fascinating experiences, but few are able to put them on paper so engagingly.


Book cover of of Small Game Hunter by Peter Smithers