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The Red Hourglass: Lives of the Predators (Allen Lane Science) Paperback – 3 Jun 1999

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (3 Jun. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140275819
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140275810
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 1.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,342,813 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Gordon Grice writes from the dark side of nature, bringing his poetic sensibility to topics such as predation and death. He has written articles about wildlife and biology for magazines like The New Yorker, Harper's, Granta, and Discover. He's been called "the Stephen King of nature writing," but he'd rather be known as "the Ambrose Bierce of nature writing." He blogs at

Product Description

Amazon Review

The Red Hourglass creeps and crawls with seven essays that follow the author's fascination with spiders, insects, snakes--even wild pigs. Its title, suggesting the irony of lethal beauty, provides a hint of the miraculous nature writing contained within; Grice transforms even the most horrific events of the natural world into poetry. Here's a pet praying mantis during feeding time: "The moth flapped its wings into a buzzing blur every few seconds while the mantid unhurriedly ate it, starting from the head. The pruning-shear mouth parts worked away, biting out chunks of moth and lapping the juices. The moth's scales, which had broken into particles of dust when they smeared my hand, looked like little brown feathers when they were whole, and they drifted down in a steady snow." The writing is quirky, lyrical, and intensely personal. Grice is not just an observer of nature; he gleefully participates in the strange and wonderful lives of mostly small, predatory animals, and most readers will simultaneously squirm and delight in his unusual, ground-level perspective. Then again, some readers may be reduced to quivering terror. If you suffer from a fear of the little beasts roaming the earth, perhaps Grice's exploration of the predator-prey relationship might prove too frightening and abhorrent. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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I hunt black widow spiders. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Littrell TOP 500 REVIEWER on 12 July 2006
Format: Paperback
This is without doubt the most gruesomely graphic book on predation that I have ever read. The predators are: the black widow spider, the praying mantis, the rattlesnake, the tarantula, the pig, the dog, and the brown recluse spider. Another half dozen or so ghastly creatures also make their appearance such as the crocodile, a bizarre "cricket-beast," hawk wasps and wolf spiders, not to mention humans.

Gordon Grice, who is a gifted amateur naturalist who teaches humanities and English at Seward County Community College in Kansas is the kind of guy who collects crickets and spiders and beetles in jars so he can feed them live creatures and watch them chow down. He is the kind of guy who goes to rattlesnake roundups and breathes deeply. He is the kind of guy who stops for road kill and likes to attend vivisections. He's like the guy who goes to the top of a tall building just for the thrill of looking down; but what excites Grice's fancy is to watch how predators kill and devour their prey. The creepier the predator, the better. You can put those quick, clean and "humane" lion kills back in your VCR and watch it on TV. What Grice wants us to experience is exactly how the mandibles of the "cricket-beast"sound as they crunch through the beetle's exoskeleton and just how it feels to die, or nearly die, of rattlesnake or black widow venom.

He's not particularly interested in scholarship (there are no footnotes or references), although he is careful about letting us know when he thinks a certain report, say of a nine foot rattler, is probably an exaggeration. He is an excellent writer who knows the value of concrete detail, tersely put; and he has the scientist's love for finding out exactly how something happens.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By book devourer on 12 Dec. 2012
Format: Hardcover
An extremely enjoyable read. I found this book on brief visit to Hay on Wye, Wales. I thought I would come away without finding anything interesting and then came across this in the last second hand bookshop I visited. The author engages you from the world go and invites you into the predatory world of nature, man included. I cannot recommend it enough. Only criticism is that the kindle edition seems far too expensive, otherwise I would have bought it for my library. I got the hardback second hand for £4.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By "omegapoint_entity" on 9 Jun. 2004
Format: Paperback
In this book Gordon Grice paints a thrilling portrait of various predators, beginning with his personal favourite the black widow. The book is split in to sections with 'Pigs' being one of the more unexpected ones. Mr Grice is no scientist and I have had to look up scientific names when he only offers a vague description. Do not look here for scientific accurary - DO look for a humorous view of Nature from someone who is thrilled by it. The anecdotes are amusing and the stories are fascinating. This is a wonderful piece of popular science. Perhaps natural history is more accurate. You might not learn something for a bio class but you will come away, refreshed and exuberant from the journey in to the behaviour of predators ranging from dogs to mantids. A book you'll want to read again and pass to your friends so they can share in the joy and humour.
Something to watch out for though - my friend hasnt given my copy back and its been a couple of years by now...
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