The year is 1885. Hank James has been in Canada several months panning gold from a stream near Roswell, British Columbia. When he hears a prizefight will be held in town, he attends along with everyone for miles around. With a little help from the fight referee, he wins big betting on the fight. Having realized that the life of a miner isn’t nearly as romantic or rewarding as he expected, and with advice from the policeman who helped him win money on the fight, Hank goes to Farwell to haul freight with pack horses for contractors building the transcontinental railroad.
The railroad’s security, a detachment of North West Mounted Police, have maintained across the West that no liquor be allowed one mile on either side of the rail bed. Provincial authorities disagree. Hank James believes in honoring and repaying his debts, but that doesn’t mean he should be involved in a war between the BC Provincial Police and the North West Mounted.
He and his partners have trouble enough running their freight business, they don’t need to be caught between competing policemen. They are already stuck between Canada’s transcontinental railroad people and the contractors doing the actual construction. While the police are fighting one another, who is looking for criminals, particularly those stealing Hank’s horses? Despite a variety of jobs, D.M. McGowan now works as a commercial driver and lives near Mile “0” of the world-famous Alaska Highway.
His stories bring Canadian history to life. “I believe in seeing morality and societal responsibility rewarded. Too much of today’s fiction seems to lead into the dark instead of the light.”
The Great Liquor War by D. M. McGowan is a western pioneering era saga that combines great story telling, true-to-life cowboy experience with US and Canadian history combined with legends from the 1800’s.
The main character Hank James was born in Canada and migrated south into the US with his family after the Civil War. Hank’s father headed towards Oregon in search of a farmstead while protecting his family from raids by outlaws and Indians. They made it as far as Kansas to find that the land was too dry to farm so pushed on to Oregon to find the land was too wet. With Mother Nature as their biggest obstacle and many mouths to feed young Hank James set out on his own. He settled down with his own gold mine claim near Rossland, British Columbia in 1984.
Hank wasn’t afraid of hard work, but he wanted more out of life than to eke out a living on his claim. With tenacity Hank took advantage of the Transcanada Railroad, found some partners and started his own freight business. Life should be good, but where there is industry, technology, commerce and economy, there are criminals.
In all my reviews I quote a passage so readers can get a feel for the authors writing style. I quote from page 37.
“It didn’t take a detective to know that the horse thief had played a little joke on the Provincial Police. Constable Art Hubbard was over six feet tall and probably ten pounds lighter than the one eighty mentioned in the description. Not only was he a long way from round, he was also clean shaven.
I gave Constable Hubbard my story, ending with the recovery of the bay gelding and the description I had from Miller. “An’ the fella called himself Art Hubbard,” I added.
The Constable’s expression didn’t change. He worked his chew around into one cheek and sent a stream of tobacco juice into the waste basket. “Feller with a sense o’ humor,” he noted, and then added. “It’ll be one ‘o Bulldog Kelley’s outfit. They work out o’ some of the illegal saloons t’ be found back in the bush. We catch one or two of ‘em every now an’ then, but we can’t get Kelley, an’ he’s the head o’ the snake. I can think of one or two that might fit your description, but not a one that had a full beard. An’ this fella’s probably shaved by now.”
I wrote out my story, signed it, and returned to work.”
Between the horse thieves, authority over liquor sales and a war between the BC Provincial Police and the North West Mounted Hank is he in over his head? Only time will tell if he makes the right choices and will he win the heart and loyalty of Sharon Dalton?
Saddle up your horse, holster your gun and join a rugged western cast of characters that will take you back to the reality and the legends of the Wild West.
Theodocia McLean endorses The Great Liquor War by D. M. McGowan for the nuggets of history told within a great story of human experience in the Wild West. This review was completed on August 11, 2015.