Facing Down Fear
John Sharp (Ex Montibus Media, 2021, 336 pages.)
Reviewed by Ken Bailey
That bigger-than-life professional hunters are not relegated to a bygone era becomes quickly evident when reading John Sharp’s Facing Down Fear (Ex Montibus Media, 2021, 336 pages.) Today best known as a PH in Zimbabwe’s Bubye Valley Conservancy, Sharp’s candid and revealing tales of his hunting experiences describe a man who earned his stripes the traditional way. At times out of work and scrambling for his next gig, Sharp’s willingness to take risks in an effort to build his career and reputation has led him to Mozambique, Zaire, Tanzania, Botswana, South Africa and Namibia over the last four decades.
Sharp is almost a caricature of Hollywood’s depiction of a PH. Most often he’s photographed shirtless, his muscular frame evident (workouts were a constant part of his daily regimen, even when hunting), knife on hip, his long, blond hair held back with a bandana. But despite the physically-imposing outward appearance, Sharp’s prose reveals him to be very much a thoughtful and considerate people-person, with a deep sentimentality barely concealed below that tough outer shell.
For those looking for tales of adventure about charging buffalos, wounded leopards, truculent elephants and wrestling crocodiles, it’s all here. If you’re a rifle enthusiast looking for opinion and insight, he’s got you covered. And Sharp’s story of being bitten by a puff adder, and the subsequent ordeal of his recovery, is at once both compelling and gruesome. But what separates Facing Down Fear from the pack is Sharp’s willingness to reveal his passions and vulnerabilities. He talks at length about his personal fears, lavishes sincere and respectful praise on his trackers and staff, and it’s his clients, many of whom he’s clearly grown close to, that are the focus of many chapters. Further, Sharp’s deep and abiding conservation and fair chase ethic emerge throughout his stories.
For a PH, Sharp is a helluva good writer. From start to finish I found this book to be engaging and well-written. The many photos are, by and large, clear and captivating and support the text well. Facing Down Fear kept me reading, anxious to turn the next page to discover what would happen next, and I can think of no higher praise for a book.