December 5, 2010

Author Q&A: The man, the myth, the gun lover

Mainer Silvio Calabi explores the life of Ernest Hemingway through the prism of his passion for hunting and firearms.

By Ray Routhier rrouthier@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Silvio Calabi was contacted a few years ago by an English professor who was writing a book on Ernest Hemingway's travels and writings in Africa and wanted to know more about Hemingway's guns.

click image to enlarge

click image to enlarge

Silvio Calabi, co-author of “Hemingway’s Guns: The Sporting Arms of Ernest Hemingway,” lives in Camden.

Shooting Sportsman

Calabi is a long-time hunting and gun aficionado who worked for years as an editor at Fly Rod & Reel and Shooting Sportsman, two magazines owned by Maine-based Down East Enterprises.

He didn't know much about Hemingway (1899-1961), but decided to do some research -- and became fascinated. finding out more about the author's guns -- how and why he got them, where and how he used them -- Calabi became more and more intrigued.

"I've always appreciated the history of guns and the history of safari hunting in Africa and so I couldn't help but be aware of what Ernest Hemingway did in those fields," Calabi said. "But the research I did opened up a whole new window on Hemingway for me, and I didn't want to stop."

So after doing research for someone else's book, Calabi enlisted two friends and fellow gun aficionados, Steve Helsley and Roger Sanger, to start researching their own book on Hemingway. The result is "Hemingway's Guns: The Sporting Arms of Ernest Hemingway" ($40, Shooting Sportsman).

Calabi, 60, lives in Camden. 

Q: So is this just about Hemingway's guns, or is it more of a biography from a different angle?

A: That's exactly what it is (the latter). We debated how much of the book to do about Hemingway's life and how much on his guns, and we decided to treat each with equal weight, to appeal to both Hemingway aficionados and hunters and shooters who know a bit about guns. When I was younger, I didn't have much interest in Hemingway -- from the little I knew, I thought he was egotistical and a near drunk.

But as we dug into his guns, how he acquired them and why, I realized this guy was not a phony. He knew how to use his guns, he was a very good shot, and he was a hell of a storyteller. He succumbed to a desire to embellish his hunting stories. He liked to say he wanted to make the story truer than the way it actually happened. To you and me, this sounds like a fisherman with a really big fish story, but he knew enough about shooting and guns to embellish a story in such a way as to create a story that was truly exciting and could well have happened. 

Q: Can you give an example of how you learned something interesting about Hemingway through researching his guns?

A: One of the most unusual stories relates to his elephant rifle, the .577 Nitro Express; how he came by it and why. In the early days of World War II, Hemingway was living in Havana, Cuba, where there were a lot of refugees from the Spanish Civil War who had Nazi sympathies. (Hemingway had covered the Spanish Civil War as a journalist.)

At that time, the Caribbean was infested with German U-boats picking off oil tankers leaving refineries and bringing oil to England. The Germans were a long way from home, so for food they would surface next to fishing boats and either buy or seize food from fishermen.

Hemingway, with help of the American ambassador, had started an unofficial anti-spy ring in Havana. But he decided to take it to the next level, so he outfitted his fishing boat with the idea that he'd lure a German submarine and then open fire and lob explosives down the conning tower.

(Continued on page 2)

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)


 

Blogs

More PPH Blogs