Just before the Legislature returns and this blog gets back to its unhealthy obsession with the session — what is wrong with me? — I’d like to again recommend a couple of books that I’ve recently read. They’re strictly for Canadian history freaks, as opposed to fans of Karen Carpenter and David Clayton-Thomas.
The first is The Wild Ride, by Charles Wilkins, a beautifully illustrated story of the great North West Mounted Police march west. It’s an entertaining depiction of the extraordinary hardships faced by the earliest Mounties as they trekked west to bring good old Canadian law and order — or peace, order and good government — to the west. I got this book from the EPL, but with its outstanding illustrations, it’s the kind of book that deserves a place on any Canadian history buff’s bookshelf.
Even better is Gold Diggers, by Charlotte Gray, also available at the EPL. One of Canada’s premiere popular historians (as opposed to academic historians), Gray paints a fascinating and colorful portrait of the Klondike gold rush of the late 1890s by focussing on a number of extraordinary characters who populated the original Canadian boomtown of Dawson City. There’s saintly Father Judge, who provided a moral compass for an immoral town. The amazing businesswoman Belinda Mulrooney, who almost deserves a book of her own. And of course, there’s Sam Steele, the man who, more an any individual, created the myth of the Mounties.
Gray has written a number of Canadian history books, none of which, I confess, I have read. (A bio of Mackenzie King’s mother just doesn’t appeal to me.) But I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Canadian history. It’s a corker, as they might have said in the old days.