Grove Press
Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press

Should the Tent Be Burning Like That?

A Professional Amateur’s Guide to the Outdoors

by Bill Heavey

From a celebrated writer on the outdoors, hilarious stories about the joys and pitfalls of hunting, fishing, family, and adventure.

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 288
  • Publication Date November 20, 2018
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2869-0
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $16.00
  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Page Count 288
  • Publication Date December 05, 2017
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2710-5
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $25.00

About the Book

Maybe the best way to explain Bill Heavey’s writing is to note that both Ted Nugent and the Wall Street Journal—not the likeliest of companions—like it. For more than twenty years, Heavey has staked a claim as one of America’s best sportswriters. In his Field & Stream column, A Sportsman’s Life, and feature stories for that magazine and others, he takes readers across the country and beyond to experience his triumphs and failures as a suburban dad who happens to love hunting and fishing. This new collection gathers a wide range of his best work. He nearly drowns attempting to fish the pond inside the cloverleaf off an Interstate Highway four miles from the White House. He almost destroys a forty-four-foot houseboat on a river in Florida and bravely buys pantyhose to save his legs on a long horseback ride into the Wyoming mountains. Whatever the subject, Heavey’s tales are odes to the notion that enthusiasm is more important than skill. Whether he’s hunting mule deer in Montana, draining cash on an overpriced pistol, or ruminating on the joys and agonies of outdoor gear, Heavey always entertains and enlightens with honesty and wit.

Praise for Should the Tent Be Burning Like That?:

“Readers don’t have to hunt or fish to appreciate Mr. Heavey’s essays, which . . . are more complicated than they first appear. The title of his book evokes the knee-slapping comedy of the campfire, a promise that his peculiar brand of farce frequently fulfills. But he also displays a gift for the sublime.”—Danny Heitman, Wall Street Journal

“The traditional hook-and-bullet story involves an angler or a hunter, a measure of expertise, and the pursuit of fish or game. By story’s end the author is usually describing landed fish or downed prey, and has rewarded readers along the way with field tips and knowledge. Bill Heavey takes a different approach, dispensing with the expertise and instead rewarding readers with madcap storytelling, laughter, commiserative cringing, but most of all a manic and contagious enthusiasm. Should the Tent Be Burning Like That? A Professional Amateur’s Guide to the Outdoors is Heavey’s latest miscellany, gathering many of his columns from Field & Stream, and whether crashing a houseboat in Florida or salving a bout of melancholy with some worm fishing, Heavey is absurdly great company throughout.”—Garden & Gun

“As a writer for Field and Stream, Bill Heavey has been able to connect with hunters, anglers and those who appreciate the great outdoors by sharing an honest perspective of his experiences. In an industry fueled by ego, Heavy’s writing style is far less serious, and focused on sharing his very own brand of comical failures with his readers.”—Outdoor Hub, “5 Reading Picks for the Hunter/Angler/Hiker/Camper”

“This new book is a collection of the best columns Bill has done for Field & Stream (and a few other publications) in the last few years, which is to say that it’s as good as anything anyone has written in any publication about anything. Give the Devil his due; Bill Heavey has a way with words…[He] inhabits a world [that] consists of animals and fish that are much better at surviving than he is at killing them; hostile, malfunctioning inanimate objects; incomprehensible written directions; doe pee that refuses to stay bottled; human folly, rain, sleet, wind, bad luck, no luck at all and, because he is now in his 60s, when your friends start dying in earnest, sorrow, pain, and loss. The secret to Bill’s success was laid bare at a speech he gave…to a club comprised of hypercompetitive hunters and fishermen in their 30s and 40s and 50s, all of whom are very successful in life and in their chosen sports…They loved him because all of them, who compete against fellow club members, and themselves, and game animals and fish, and Nature, had been defeated time and time again, sometimes ignominiously. And they persist, as does Bill. That is a Great Truth, and is the theme that runs through this book. As Hugh Glass said in The Revenant, “As long as you can pull a breath, you fight.” I trust Mr. Heavey will continue to milk it for all it’s worth.”—David E. Petzal, “The Gun Nuts,” Field & Stream

Praise for You’re Not Lost if You Can Still See the Truck:

“Bill Heavey is one of the best magazine writers in America. No, he doesn’t work for the New Yorker. He writes for Field & Stream, the popular journal for hunters and fishermen. Outdoor writing has a dim reputation as a soapbox for braggarts who crow about hooking a monster marlin or bagging a 24-point deer. But Mr. Heavey will have none of that . . . Not since Jack London’s stories has the stark danger of freezing lived so largely on the page . . . As the tongue-in-cheek title of Mr. Heavey’s collection suggests, this isn’t always or even usually a serious book. Think Erma Bombeck in camo gear, and you’ll get the sensibility of many of these pieces.”—Wall Street Journal

“A reader doesn’t have to hunt or fish to appreciate Heavey’s gift for storytelling . . . The best essays, here, in fact, are heartbreakingly tender . . . This is a hard book to classify, and that’s its biggest strength.”—Christian Science Monitor (“10 excellent books you might have missed in 2014”)

“Remarkably engaging and often hilarious . . . Even those who have never baited a hook, assembled a tree stand, or sat in a duck blind will quickly find themselves drawn into Heavey’s world with colorful—and occasionally dangerous—accounts of outdoor life.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“To the list of great Field & Stream essayists . . . add the name Bill Heavey. His writing is funny, poignant, acerbic, and best of all, always alert to the absurdities of life.”—Patrick C. McManus

“Bill Heavey is the man who put the ‘lure’ in failure. He’s my kind of fisherman, deer hunter, and wing shot. Which is to say the, um, very amateur kind. But who wants to hear about some braggart’s cast and blast triumphs when you can hear about Bill catching a 14-inch largemouth bass on a pink Shakespeare Ladies’ Spincast Combo? Even I have never done that. At least not sober.”—P. J. O’Rourke

“I’ve read Bill Heavey’s page since the earliest days of my career. He’s one of my all-time favorite writers. He’s funny, fearless and always up for anything. If he could fish as well as he writes, I’d be in trouble. Fortunately, he can’t.”—Kevin VanDam, winningest professional bass angler of all time

“[Heavey’s] self-deprecating tales make us laugh . . . [He] writes about the good times as well as the demons of his outdoor life. Some chapters are for soul-searching, not just fun and games.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Humorous and thought-provoking essays on what it means to be an outdoorsman . . . Readers will sense that it’s possible to fail at your mission and still have a grand time if you don’t take yourself too seriously.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Bill Heavey isn’t just one of my favorite writers, though he is. He’s also one of my heroes, proof that you can make an adult living by being witty, insightful and spending an awful lot of time outdoors. That’s the dream, and it’s chronicled in this book. Buy three copies.”—Tucker Carlson

“If you think of Bill Heavey as ‘just’ a humorist, you’ll be selling him short, but it’s his intelligent, unforced humor that hits you first and stays with you the longest.”—John Gierach, author of At the Grave of the Unknown Fisherman and All Fishermen Are Liars

“Bill Heavey is James Thurber in camouflage overalls, an unrelenting geyser of slapstick comedy and serrated wit. If he doesn’t make you laugh, consult a coroner.”—Jonathan Miles, author of Dear American Airlines

“Heavey examines an eclectic variety of topics, from hunting to fishing to relationships and even life’s more profound mysteries. His perspective is that of a devoted, if not always expert, outdoorsman. If in doubt, he makes fun of himself . . . Fellow outdoorspeople are the target audience, but the overall quality of the writing may draw even stay-at-homes.”—Booklist

“Bill Heavey has become famous as America’s everyman outdoorsman, unafraid to draw attention to his many and varied failures—from sporting French lavender deodorant to scaring a UPS man half to death while bowhunting in his front yard.”—DL-Online


We descended into the deep ravine and climbed up the other side. It was getting late. We were walking along a flat, brushy hilltop, looking for birds, when Budz grabbed my arm. The toms, twenty yards ahead of us and just coming into view, had no idea we were there. “Shoot!” Budz said. Then he pleaded, “Please shoot those turkeys!”

I shouldered the gun and realized I had two red heads lined up perfectly in my sights. The world slowed. Even I knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But whoever had commandeered my body decided that it was a good time to practice flinching. My shot hit the ground ten yards in front and ten yards to the left of the birds. Hevi-Shot, incidentally, is devastating on dirt, at least in South Dakota. The turkeys spread their wings languidly and glided down the long hill we’d just scaled, back into the thick woods.

Budz said nothing and walked off a few yards to be by himself. He was facing away from me. His head and torso were bobbing rhythmically, like a man banging his head against an imaginary wall. It reminded me of the TV footage you see of people at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. A strange thought coursed through my brain: Maybe they’ll put up a Wailing Wall in South Dakota in my honor.

The bobsled run was over for the day. I had just medaled in the Loser Olympics. I felt for Budz. He had done nothing for the past fifteen hours but try to spoon-feed me chip shots at wild turkeys. My only part in all this was to aim a stick at the birds and then move my right index finger. That, obviously, had proved too complex a task.