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Patrick F. McManus, 84, outdoors humor columnist

The Spokesman-Review via Associated Press/file 2008

Mr. McManus wrote monthly humor columns for more than three decades for the popular magazines Field & Stream and Outdoor Life.

By Keith Ridler Associated Press 

BOISE, Idaho — Patrick F. McManus, a prolific writer best known for his humor columns in fishing and hunting magazines who also wrote mystery novels and one-man comedy plays, died Wednesday. He was 84.

Mr. McManus died at a nursing facility in Spokane, Wash., where he had been in declining health, Tim Behrens, who performed the one-man plays, said Friday.

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‘‘He was a warm man, he was a good man, he was a funny man,’’ Mr. Behrens said. ‘‘I look at him right up there with Mark Twain.’’

Mr. McManus wrote monthly humor columns for more than three decades for the popular magazines Field & Stream and Outdoor Life, the columns later appearing in books. He also wrote more than two dozen other books that included a guide for humor writers and a series of mystery novels with a darker form of humor involving fictional Blight County, Idaho, and Sheriff Bo Tully. Altogether, he sold more than 5 million copies and appeared on the New York Times bestseller list.

Many of his characters are drawn from real people from his childhood in Sandpoint, Idaho, said Bill Stimson, a journalism professor at Eastern Washington University and former writing student of Mr. McManus at the same school. The two became lifelong friends.

The fictional Rancid Crabtree, for example, is a loner living in the woods who cares only about fishing and hunting and has no one telling him to go to school. Stimson said Mr. McManus told him that Crabtree is based on a real person that he found in the hills around Sandpoint as a child.

Stimson said Mr. McManus quit teaching in 1983 to write full time. He had been writing traditional journalism pieces until on a fluke he wrote a humorous piece about satellites tracking wildlife, Stimson said, that a magazine immediately bought.

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‘‘He was a very accomplished journalist to begin with, and then he found out he could make a lot more money as a humorist,’’ Stimson said. ‘‘He’s really the Mark Twain of the Northwest.’’

Patrick Francis McManus was born in Sandpoint on Aug. 25, 1933. His father died when Mr. McManus was 6.

‘‘I can remember the isolation of living out on a little farm and everything being extremely hard and miserable,’’ he told Sandpoint Magazine in 1995. ‘‘But I don’t tend to think of it that way, and I think it’s because of the writing and transforming my early situation.’’

Behrens said being poor during childhood was reflected in Mr. McManus’s writing.

‘‘The lack of any kind of extravagance led to the ability to create entire imaginary worlds out of his walks in the mountains,’’ he said.

Mr. McManus, Stimson said, nearly flunked out of Washington State University but then got serious about writing, and remained serious about it for the rest of his life, dedicating a certain part of each day to writing and telling his students to do the same.

Behrens has performed the six one-man plays Mr. McManus wrote for more than two decades. He said Mr. McManus would attend the early plays and listen to the audience reaction, then make changes to the play until he was satisfied.

‘‘He would walk in the back of the theater, never sitting down,’’ Behrens said. ‘‘He would listen, and he would pace, and he would think. It took about 50 shows before one was set.’’

Mr. McManus leaves his wife, Darlene, four daughters, and multiple grandchildren.