A publisher seldom writes an introduction to a book: but I want to share my thoughts about this novel [Squire Davis and the Crazy River*] with you, the reader.
This is either a Larry McMurtry has tea with Jane Austen book or Jane Austen has a beer with Larry McMurtry on the set of Lonesome Dove book. It's a rollicking tale of romance in a frontier where misfits wander from their cultures to the edges of other cultures, a frontier where governments and nations trade with and steal from each other.
This is Ontario 1845.
In the few history books that Albertans studied in school, Ontario was and would continue to be the land of the middle way. It's the centre of Canadian rectitude and culture – European culture, large churches, people who work hard and pay their taxes. Everyone knew his or her place; and every other part of Canada was a region.
We in the west felt that people came to the prairies and British Columbia from Ontario not just because they were looking for new opportunities for themselves and Ontario corporations, but also because Ontario was as boring as white bread on a Sunday morning.
One more impression: according to the textbooks we studied years ago everyone in Ontario was apparently white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, prim and proper.
After reading the manuscript of Squire Davis and the Crazy River I knew that my stereotype of historical Ontario was naïve and foolish. The Ontario of 1845 was a kick-ass frontier, a complex society in which European settlers, Aboriginal peoples, and African Americans created the Ontario of today. But no one told me what happened to these people, especially the Aboriginal peoples who owned Ontario, and those allies who cooperated with the British in the war with Americans. The book tells something of the injustices that have been done, but more should be written about this part of our history.
After I read the manuscript I travelled with the author through the areas of Ontario in which the story is set and learned more about the history of "Canada West" than I learned in school and since school. Ontario is a wonderful part of Canada and learning about it and its history was and continues to be a great privilege.
John Ralston Saul said in a CBC radio interview that Canadians need to tell their stories and they need to tell them to each other. Squire Davis and Jennet Ferguson describe their adventures and their voices tell one of these stories.
Gabriel Zaid said in his book So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance that "...to publish a book is to insert it into the middle a conversation...a conversation that springs, as it should, from local debate, but that opens up, as it should, to all places and times."
I hope that this book entertains and informs, and that it is inserted into the middle of many conversations. If that occurs, Minsos and I will enjoy a cup of tea or a beer just as we expect that McMurtry and Austen would do if the book were inserted into their discussion.
Jerome Martin Publisher, Spotted Cow Press
*reprinted under a new title, Sky Walker Tehawennihárhos