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The Red Hourglass: Lives of the Predators

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  161 ratings  ·  31 reviews
Snake venom that digests human flesh. A building cleared of every living thing by a band of tiny spiders. An infant insect eating its living prey from within, saving the vital organs for last. These are among the deadly feats of natural engineering you'll witness in The Red Hourglass, prize-winning author Gordon Grice's masterful, poetic, often dryly funny exploration of p ...more
ebook, 272 pages
Published October 21st 2009 by Delta (first published March 9th 1998)
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Jenny Schmenny
This stuff's like gold to me! Detailed, reverent, lightly personal, nerdy, pragmatic, philosophical, and often astonishingly disgusting. Seriously, if you're squeamish, you do not want to read about scientists injecting themselves with black widow venom, or mantids eviscerating frogs. But if you love biology and enjoy narrative that's both pensive and descriptive, you should read this book. Grice's chapters are limited to: black widow, mantid, rattlesnake, tarantula, pig, canid, and recluse, but ...more

This book contains some interesting information, and also a lot of stories and opinions that did not interest me. The author is not a scientist (but an English professor), and this is not exactly a work of popular science, but somewhat a diary of his observations and thoughts.

While the chapter on the black widow was very fascinating, most others had problematic elements:

1. In "Canid", he talks of the Indian dog of the street called "Dhole" which he says does not belong to any particular breed a
Gordon Grice’s The Red Hourglass is a fascinating, and at times squirm-inducing, look at a handful of predatory and poisonous species. The title of course refers to the signature markings on the body of the infamous black widow spider, whose profile is the debut chapter. After finishing thisHourglass, I’m no less frightened of the spiders but have more respect for their role in nature.

Grice looks at creatures with a scientist’s eye, interested but not empathetic. He relates their battles to eat,
I really enjoyed this book but would have rated it higher if it hadn't been so anemic toward the end. Grice richly researches the black widow spider but does not investigate his remaining predators with a similar depth. His chapter on the brown recluse, in comparison, is disappointing. Part of what makes the black widow chapter so entertaining is because Grice has such a deep personal experience with this particular spider. Just the same, he has uncovered so many interesting stories and research ...more
Gordon Grice is crazy. He's an English instructor at a community college who likes to raise black widow spiders for fun...and then gets them to duke it out with beetles, mantids, and any other nasty little thing he finds in the backyard of his rural Kansas home. Yikes! But he's also a darn good writer...if a bit creepy. And he doesn't limit his topic to just black widows here. Each chapter focuses on a different predatory species, including pigs! Fun stuff, but perhaps not a read for just before ...more
Absolutely first-rate natural history -- nice to see pigs given their due, fit company for venomous spiders. Funny, gruesome, laconic, unforgettable. A curiously American book, too. These are the creatures that fill our empty spaces and our imaginations.
Don't read if you're afraid of creepy crawlies!
Mar 04, 2011 Patrick rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like zoology
Shelves: reviewed
As an animal lover and young reader, I picked this book up when I was very little and it profoundly affected me. Gordon Grice takes a passionate look at different predatory animals, namely the black widow. He recollects personal experiences, histories of attacks, mating behaviors, dietary habits and much more. Rather than seeming like merely a straight-foward reference guide, Gordon Grice adds many stories involving his or his friend's experiences with spiders, snakes and other deadly predators. ...more
The opening essay on black widow spiders was incredible — well written, informative, deeply thought, passionate, and vastly interesting; five stars for it alone — but the subsequent essays weren't good. Still recommended, mind, just... of lesser quality. Figure three-star average for them.

Of the seven essays here, three of them are on the topic of spiders (and a fourth, on the mantid, that touched on spiders). I don't consider myself a victim of arachnophobia, but I felt invisible fantasy spider
The writing is solid and the descriptions evocative, but the subject matter was not my cup of tea. But for that, I would have rated this book 4 stars. Grice has an admirable curiousity about nature and gets a lot closer to these creatures than I would ever choose to. I doubt I'll read any other books on predatory bugs, but I'm glad that I read this one.
A quick read, very informative, a little disgusting, but that's part of the fun. It was clear the author wasn't coming at the subject with a strictly scientific view, which made it more compelling, but there were a few contradictions or unanswered questions that I wish he had answered.
Peter Landau
This book made my skin crawl, but then I'm no fan of creepy-crawlers. I don't think Gordon Grice once uses such a derogatory term to describe the predators -- spiders, mantis, pig, canine -- he writes about in THE RED HOURGLASS: LIVES OF THE PREDATORS. He is blessed with the two attributes necessary for a great writer: literary skills and obsessive devotion. Together they make for stories that, even when I felt as if infested with vermin, made me keep reading. My fears were no match for Grice's ...more
This book should have been about half the length. The author was too WORDY- too many details about the hunt for spiders in musty abandoned toolsheds. (and not just because i think this could be the worst idea imaginable!) There were some great nuggets of information, however, particularly on the Black Widow Spider. The author described a scientist who allowed himself to be bitten on the fingertip by a very angry Widow. His assistants recorded the visible effects of the progressive toxin...
Gruesome (deliberately so but that didn't make me enjoy any the more). I would highly recommend to anyone who likes blood, guts and death or collecting insects in jars.
Rocco Versaci
Grice--a community college English professor in Oklahoma--delivers a knockout piece of nature writing with this book, which examines in great, hair-raising detail the habits of predators such as tarantulas, rattlesnakes, black widows, and others. Each chapter is devoted to a different animal, and the last chapter--on the Brown Recluse--will keep you up at night. As a writer, Grice has a great eye for detail and knows how to tell a story.
Really enjoyed this book! Read my review at Guys Lit Wire.
From a boy doing boy things (like placing two spiders together in a jar to see who will win) to a professional entomologist who studies spiders and bugs for a living, Gordon Grice lets the excited little boy tell of his own growing up in the enthusiastic voice of someone who still can't believe they get paid to do what they do for a living.
Frederick Bingham
This book is about black widows, rattlesnakes, dogs, praying mantises, tarantulas, pigs, and brown recluses. It describes in detail how they hunt, mate, and interact with humans. The common theme is that all of these creatures are predators. Fun, well-written and punchy.
While a good book overall, the rest of the book lacks the extreme effort put into the black widow chapter. Understandable, since Grice has personal experience with widows. However this is still a very informative book, and I enjoy knowing more about these creatures.
Each chapter is more or less a stand alone essay about a specific predator Grice has personal experience with, although he also includes tidbits of history about the subjects. The writing is very engaging and the details gruesome. My favorite chapter was about Mantids.
Jay Garcia
Well-written essays on predators. I read this several years ago, and it deserves a re-read. I remember the black widow section being particularly harrowing. He touches on the evolution of venom, among other tangents.
I can only gush that this is a "really cool" book about a select cast of predators, including the black widow, the mantids, the recluse spider and the rattlesnake.

And it's not grossly graphic if you're particularly squeamish.
Man, when this guy talks about his poor wife and how she has to deal with all his tarantulas... LOL! Very interesting book. I shall never go outside again without long jeans and boots.
A brilliant brilliant book!! The title is taken from the alternative name of the Black Widow spider and is referenced in its own chapter and a grisly experiment....
The Red Hourglass is a definately one of my favorite pieces of non-fiction to come out of southeast Oklahoma. Gordon Grice is John McPhee meets Gary Larson.
Couldn't quite give this a five, but it's a bit better than 4. Wish there were a 10 point system. Fascinating, quick read.
Nov 07, 2007 Lindsey rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lindsey by: High School - Mr. Connor's class
Shelves: non-fiction
This is the first nonfiction book I loved - I had to read it for high school biology, but I've re-read it a couple times since.
Engaging writing, but the journalist in me wanted more sourcing, a footnote or two.
Stevenson Hill
great start great stories weak finish
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I try to write beautifully about the darkest aspects of nature--predation, death, and other delights. I love all the faces of nature, but my work is not for the squeamish or the sentimental. My history: I've written articles about wildlife and biology for magazines like The New Yorker, Harper's, and Discover. My books and short pieces have appeared on best-of-the-year lists published by the Los An ...more
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