Swedes' Ferry

Swedes' Ferry

eBook - 2013
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An historically accurate novel about an international showdown between police forces, and at the same time a picaresque tale of cops and robbers and life along the Canada/US prairie border at the end of the 19th Century.Swedes' Ferry is the story of Constable Leslie Simpson, a Manitoba-born member of the North-West Mounted Police, who takes a little time off from his day job to make a quick buck south of the border, robbing the First National Bank in Bismarck, North Dakota. When he gets away with the Great Northern Railroad payroll, but inadvertently kills the bank manager in the process, he winds up battling to stave off the intentions of not only a very nasty Pinkerton agent, but the third-richest man in the United States. The chase is on, across much of the Canadian prairies and the northern American plains, because the bank happens to be owned by Canadian-born James J. Hill, the real-life railroad millionaire who is named in Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Hill crisscrosses the plains on his recently-completed railroad, with his opera singer and dominatrix travelling companions. He's used to getting what he wants and keeping what he has. So when he loses his Great Northern payroll in Bismark, what he most wants is for the vicious William Pinkerton and his sleazy henchman Jiggs Dubois to bring him the head of the varmint that took it.This is fascinating historical fiction, full of detailed information about the prairie border country, the people, the horses, and the weaponry, as well as the customs and cultural peccadilloes of the day in neighbouring nations that are developing in very different ways.
Publisher: Toronto : Coteau Books, 2013
ISBN: 9781550505627
Characteristics: 1 online resource
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc

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Aug 22, 2014

Swedes' Ferry by Allan Safarik was disappointing. The plot is a mite week. While the action does pick up in the last few chapters, most of the book is quite placid with incessant, and quite unnecessary, explanations of Les's or Buck's life. Or, that of the Pinkerton detectives. Add that to the intruding historical explanations and Swedes' Ferry began to read like a work of non-fiction. I dislike a narrator who wants to explain the history of the story, especially one who speaks from today. It is jarring and takes away from the 'in-the-present' story telling. I want to follow Les and Bud and everyone else's story 'as-it-happens.' To make this reader's life more miserable, chapters jump between characters and time. One chapter might follow Bud in July, and the following chapter will follow Les in May. I don't know if it is a rule of story telling but it ought to be: chapters can jump between points in time or between characters but not both at once. It takes this reader out of the story as I try to keep everything straight. There is even a section where it seem Safarik himself became muddled. A story set in the past should try to refrain from modern language in the spoken direct speech of the characters: that's another rule of mine. Within reason, characters in an western set in 1894, should talk like they belong there rather than having accidentally arrived in a time machine. The Pinkerton characters keep referring to the collection of data. Data? That is a word that was very rarely used in speech in the 1890s. How about 'clue' or even the more authentic 'clew' found in detective fiction of the time? Too many words just didn't ring true in the mouths of Les and Bud and the Pinkerton detectives. Swede's Ferry could have used a bit more action, and a lot less explanation. Show, don't tell. And, Swede's Ferry could have anchored itself more firmly in 1894.

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