Would it surprise you to learn that there was a contemporary of Ernest Hemingway’s who, in his romantic questing and hell-or-high-water pursuit of life and his art, was closer to the Hemingwayesque ideal than Hemingway himself? Almost Hemingway relates the life of Negley Farson, adventurer, iconoclast, best-selling writer, foreign correspondent, and raging alcoholic who died in oblivion. Born only a few years before Hemingway, Farson had a life trajectory that paralleled and intersected Hemingway’s in ways that compelled writers for publications as divergent as the Guardian and Field & Stream to compare them. Unlike Hemingway, however, Farson has been forgotten.

This high-flying and literate biography recovers Farson’s life in its multifaceted details, from his time as an arms dealer to Czarist Russia during World War I, to his firsthand reporting on Hitler and Mussolini, to his assignment in India, where he broke the news of Gandhi’s arrest by the British, to his excursion to Kenya a few years before the Mau Mau Uprising. Farson also found the time to publish an autobiography, The Way of a Transgressor, which made him an international publishing sensation in 1936, as well as Going Fishing, one of the most enduring of all outdoors books.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, a fellow member of the Lost Generation whose art competed with a public image grander than reality, once confessed that while he had to rely on his imagination, Farson could simply draw from his own event-filled life. Almost Hemingway is the definitive window on that remarkable story.

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