12 February 2018

HBC as Murderers of Men and Killers of Dogs

The Land of Frozen Suns
Bertrand W. Sinclair
Chicago: Donohue, 1910
309 pages
A Scottish transplant by way of the United States, Bertrand W. Sinclair wasn’t Canada’s most prolific pulp magazine writer; I know of two hundred and ninety-four appearances, which is nowhere near the fifteen hundred or so (I lost count) logged by Ontarian H. Bedford-Jones. Sinclair isn’t our best-known pulp writer, either; that title belongs to Thomas P. Kelley, author of The Black Donnellys, Vengeance of the Donnellys, I Found Cleopatra, and, of course, The Gorilla’s Daughter
Sinclair’s distinction rests in being our best pulp writer. Though his plots are invariably marred by melodrama — a prerequisite in pulps — he usually brought something to his stories that shook convention. My favourite Sinclair novel is The Hidden Places. Serialized in The Popular Magazine (Oct 7 - Nov 20, 1921), it concerns a disfigured war veteran who seeks sanctuary on the remote BC coast from Vancouverites disgusted by his appearance. By great coincidence, he finds his nearest neighbour is his wife, who believes he'd died in battle. She is now married to another man. 
As I say, melodrama.
So begins my latest Dusty Bookcase review, posted today on the Canadian Notes & Queries website. Here's the link.

The Land of Frozen Suns was Bertrand W. Sinclair's second novel. It tells the tale of a Texas rancher's son who eludes American frontier justice by fleeing to Canada. Once there, he must contend with a company of murderers from which I once purchased a Braun coffeemaker.

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08 February 2018

Margaret Millar en français (et une petite histoire)

Several years ago, I had the idea of including Margaret Millar in the Véhicule Press Ricochet series. My plan was to revive every one of the out-of-print novels she'd set in Canada: The Devil Loves Me, Wall of Eyes, The Iron Gates, and Fire Will Freeze. I was hoping to find some way of adding An Air That Kills, her last with a Canadian setting, though it was then in print from Stark House Press.

By great coincidence, I knew Millar's literary executor; we'd first met decades ago, when the author was still alive. Response to my query brought the news that Syndicate Books had just negotiated the rights to reprint every single Margaret Millar title.

As a series editor, I was discouraged; as a fan, I could not have been more excited. At long last, I'd be afforded the opportunity to read uncommon Millar novels like The Invisible Worm, The Weak-Eyed Bat, Experiment in Spring, and Wives and Lovers.

The first volume of Syndicate's seven-volume Complete Millar, was published in September 2016. Titled The Master at Her Zenith, it includes Vanish in an Instant, Wives and Lovers, Beast in View, An Air That Kills, and The Listening Walls. Four more volumes have followed, returning a total of twenty-two novels to print. I've been pacing myself. The last two volumes of the Complete Millar will be published this year.

"Arguably the most talented English-Canadian woman writer of her generation, as a genre writer who lived much of her life in the United States Millar is often ignored by Canadian critics," I wrote in Millar's Canadian Encyclopedia entry. Had it not been for Gabrielle Roy, "English-Canadian" would've been unnecessary.

Is Roy still well known amongst Anglophones? The Tin Flute is studied, which is more than can be said about anything by Millar. This month, Roy's Street of Riches and The Road Past Altamont are being added to Penguin's Modern Classics series.

Sixty-seven years have passed since the publication of The Invisible Worm, Millar's debut, and she has never once had a Canadian publisher. Now is the time for French-language publishers of my home province to embrace her. Nearly every Millar mystery has been translated by Parisian publishers... and nearly all are out of print. As a starting point, I recommend Omelette Canadienne, the translation of Fire Will Freeze, the only Millar novel set in Quebec.

I'll leave you with four favourites.

La femme de sa mort [Vanish in an Instant]
Paris, Presses de la Cité
Mortellement votre [Beast in View]
Paris: Presses de la Cité, 1957
Un air qui tue [An Air That Kills]
Paris: Presses de la cité, 1958
Au violeur! [The Fiend]
Paris: Gallimard,1966
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