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Bookends: An Adventure of Monsters and Buried Treasure October 22, 2011

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, Uncategorized.
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Bookends: An Adventure of Monsters and Buried Treasure

By Dan Davidson

October 12, 2011

Star, Oct. 14/11

– 914 words –

The Legends of the Lake on the Mountain:

An Early Adventure of John A. Macdonald

By Roderick Benns

Fireside Publishing House

215 pages

$12.95

Roderick Benns is having a run of good luck with his “Leaders and Legacies” series. In these he places youthful versions of Canada’s prime ministers in the midst of a Hardy Boys style mystery and uses the stories to highlight traits for which the men (so far just men) were known for later in life. In all fairness I should mention that Kim Campbell is on the list of PMs that Benn intends to plan adventures for, a list that also includes Paul Martin, Lester Pearson, and Charles Tupper.

The first book, The Mystery of the Moonlight Murder, involved John Diefenbaker in Saskatchewan in the early part of the 20th century. It won Benns the Best Regional Fiction Award for Canada East and the latest book has done the same thing.

We meet John. A. as a teenager living in Stone Mills (present-day Glenora, Ontario), where his father runs a flour mill. It’s near the end of the summer of 1828 and John will soon be heading off to Kingston to attend school again. That is, he will be if he survives the attentions of the local town bully, who seems to feel that John needs to be taken down a peg or two, perhaps because of John’s nimble verbal wit, and undoubtedly because of the prank that he and George Cloutier had played on the young hulk.

At almost the same time as John is being doused in a barrel of flour (which ends with him scaring a small boy half to death), a veteran of the War of 1812 is looking wth horror over the Lake on The Mountain where something very unnatural seems to be moving across the waters.

“In his petrified state – and just beore he was about to scream – Anson Rightmyer felt a cold, strong hand clamp over his mouth.”

As the story progresses there are several sightings of what appears to be some sort of a sea serpent on the lake, and a couple more disappearances.

That’s not all that’s happening. Someone is producing a single page opinion sheet called The Stone Mills Reformer, which is taking a very critical view of the Family Compact system that is running Upper Canada ar this time. John wonders is this sheet is the reason for an impromtu visit from his uncle, the retired Colonel, who is very critical of what he sees as American style thinking making its way into the British colony.

“…It’s a dangerous thing to let just any common man have enough power to make decisions without a sober educated voice of reason.” [said the colonel] “Sometimes the common man doesn’t know what’s good for him.”….

John himself isn’t so sure his uncle is completely correct.

“Why does change have to happen all at once?” asked John. “Just because I’m a British subject and I’ll die a British subject some day, doesn’t mean we can’t grow. Not everything happens overnight.”

As it happens, there’s a renegade American agitator living in the area under an assumed name, and he has grandiose plans to lay the groundwork for an invasion by undermining the social cohesion of the rural area. The serpent on the lake is just part of his grand design.

John, his two sisters and George know nothing of any of this. They have come into possession of something they believe to be a treasure map, and they are busy scouring the countryside in their efforts to interpret the map when they, too, see the monster in the twilight.

Just when it seems that Stone Mills is abot to become a ghost town after the disappearance of the local constable, events transpire which have John solving the mystery of the monster and saving the life of his litle sister, thus assuaging the guilt he has been feeling for years over the death of his younger brother

The second mystery is a little more complex in a way. They do manage to decode the map left by the French admiral (this is just off the Great Lakes, remember) many years before, but the solution does not lead to the treasure trove they had hoped to find. The full story behind that has been revealed in a series of letters written by the Admiral and inserted throughout the story. John has a tough decision to make at the end about whether to tell the truth to the old man who had spent much of his life trying to find that treasure.

Benns ambition with these stories is to teach a little Canadian history and provide a series that will appeal to boys in particular. The books are for girls too, but they will read nearly anything, he says, while he believes that research shows boys need a certain type of story to galvanize their interest.

On a Yukon related note, he credits the popular history books of Pierre Berton with being an inspiration to him, not that Berton wrote much fiction, but he applied the techniques of fiction to his historical writing.

“Pierre Berton popularized history with adults in a profound way. If we can do a tenth of what he did for Canadian kids – showing them how wonderful our own country’s stories can be – it will be a worthwhile endeavour.”

-30-

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