I think I can be excused for saying that I know a little about what it takes to make a book. I've written a few myself, and published more than a few others. So I think that gives me a good perspective on what it takes to put together a book like Goodwin Granger: The Rod Man from Denver by Michael Sinclair. And I have to begin by saying this is one of the best books of this kind to come to market in the last decade.
In this beautiful volume, Sinclair seeks to place Granger and his fly rods into proper historical context. And he has his work cut out for him. Other than his own research on the subject published as part of a larger work nearly two decades ago, there has been very little reliable information about the firm, especially its early years. As Sinclair begins to construct the story of Granger from before World War I through his first rods on Ninth Street in Denver to the coming of Bill Phillipson, the reader begins to realize there is something great going on here.
One of the things that is most interesting about Granger is the early years. From his Mercantile days when he first experimented with fly rods ca. 1917, to his tournament casting success, to his work with Robert Holding on making the rodmaking machinery, Sinclair captures Goodwin Granger and an era that has long since passed. It might seem weird, but when reading this section, I wanted to put my coat-and-tie back on, Sinclair captures the genteel spirit of the age in such a pitch perfect manner.
While my personal interest is certainly more focused on the Goodwin Granger era (like Fred Divine before him, he died early in 1931), the author certainly keeps the reader's attention through the later years up to and beyond the Wright & McGill days. In particular, the bitter animosity between Granger principals Agnes Marshall and Bill Phillipson was surprising, and somewhat sad, to discover. It did lead Phillipson to found his own, highly successful company, but one wonders what might have been if Marshall did not block the purchase of Granger by Phillipson.
Based on more than two decades of research, The Rod Man from Denver shows it on nearly every page. When Sinclair writes that a particular ad is the first large ad to appear in Field & Stream, you can rest assured that the author has looked at every pertinent issue of the magazine for years on either side of this date so that he can verify this claim.
What emerges from all of this research is the rare book that can please multiple audiences. For historians like myself, the book is chock full of fascinating tidbits and information that make the book a delight. For rod collectors, it has numerous color photography and close-up photos that will help them to identify and appreciate Granger fly rods. And for the generalist, interested in fishing cane and reading good fly fishing literature, the book will come off as fascinating read. Trust me when I say this is not an easy triumvirate to pull off.
About the only criticism I have is that as a historian, I would have liked to have seen the book footnoted. However, I understand that this is not everyone's cup of tea, and Sinclair does make an effort to document materials in the captions and text. Additionally, it does have a nice bibliography and supplemental appendix of legal documents and catalog pages.
The book was published by the author, but saying that The Rod Man from Denver is a self-published book is akin to saying that a Stan Bogdan (rest in peace) reel is home-made. The term doesn't apply. The book was published by the author, but it was done in such a professional manner that even the harshest critic would certainly never have noticed.
It is also available in three different formats: a Softcover Trade Edition, a Hardcover Leather Edition, and the Registered Deluxe Edition (which is the one I used for this review). Let me say something about this. Those who read the Friday Funhouse know that I sometimes link to previous tackle Limited Edition books. I can confidently declare that these books appreciate over time to the point that in ten years time, most of us could not afford to buy one on the used market. So I say with confidence that the Granger Registered Deluxe Edition is as nice of a book of this kind as you will find available for sale today, tomorrow, or in a decade. Get one while you can, as they are not going to be available very long.
Sinclair writes in the preface, "I believe this book to be the most accurate and thorough record of Goodwin Granger and his company to date." That is an understatement, in that not only is this the best work on the subject, it is almost certain that it is the best book that will ever be written on the subject.
The Rod Man from Denver is the definitive account on Granger fly rods. It is 8.5" x 11", 360 pages, and contains 300 full color images. All edition of the Granger Book can be ordered through the author's web site by clicking here.
-- Dr. Todd