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Bookends: A Pair of Pierres find danger in the bush January 17, 2017

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, mystery, Whitehorse Star.
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Bookends: A Pair of Pierres find danger in the bush

By Dan Davidson

March 22, 2016

– 964 words –

 

The Wail of the Wendigo

An Early Adventure of Pierre Trudeau

By Steve Pitt

Fireside Publishing House

227 pages

$12.95

 

I should probably explain right off the top that the Leaders & Legacies series of young adult adventure books, of which this is the fifth volume, does not ask that you believe much of hat’s happening in any of the mysteries. The idea is to imagine what various of our Prime Ministers might have been like if they had been involved in Hardy Boys style adventures in their teen years. The series was created and is guided by Roderick Benns, who wrote the first two books.

So far there have been adventures featuring John Diefenbaker, John A. Macdonald, Paul Martin and Richard Bennett. Each of the books so far has featured a fairly realistic mystery and setting and has included all sorts of things that might be said to foreshadow what these lads would grow up to be.

The current book gets full marks for all sorts of clues to the future, but has moved into new territory with its inclusion of quite a few supernatural elements. It’s a bit of Hardy Boys meets Goosebumps.

It’s set in the year 1931, and while it begins with Pierre Trudeau and his father in Montreal, planning a trip to the Yukon to test out a gold claim, it doesn’t stay there long. Actually it begins firmly in Pierre’s head, where he is engrossed in reading a pulp fiction horror story in which one of Canada’s former Prime Ministers, transformed into a vampire after his death in England, is being pursued through the labyrinth of rooms in the Parliament Buildings. Pierre is on a paddle wheeler, heading for Dawson, and it’s towards the end of a the chapter before we flash back and find out how he ended up there, talking to a young deckhand named Art Fry.

Art Fry? Yes, the first of a number of other real life persons who make their way into this book. Art’s along for most of the ride from there on. Other real folk include Frank Berton, Wop May, Albert Johnson, Terohaute and, of course, the young Pierre Berton.

Along the way to Dawson, young Trudeau has a strange encounter with a boy that no one else can see, and receives the gift of a bear claw in exchange for a chocolate bar. This turns out to be very important later.

The pair of Pierres (a running gag in the book) do not take to each other at all in the beginning. Berton sees Trudeau (they end up using last names to avoid confusion) as a stuck-up city boy, and Trudeau sees Berton (bow tie and all) as an arrogant know-it-all who is forever taking notes on everything around him.

In a sort time the boys, their fathers and Art, are bundled into May’s plan and flown east to the Rat River district, where they set up camp near an abandoned (and strangely fortified) cabin and begin the process of testing the creeks for colours.

There’s something strange happening at night, weird sounds that have nothing to do with Trudeau’s overheated imagination. Later the boys will learn about the danger and why the cabin was so fortified.

In the meantime, they learn to hunt, courtesy of lessons from a native girl (because the term First Nations hadn’t been though of yet) named Henni. She and her parents have been living a traditional lifestyle in the woods ever since the authorities threatened to take her off to residential school.

She and her family know the secret behind the strange noises at night and are friends with the mysterious man named Albert Johnson, who claims to be the 141 year old survivor of one of the Franklin Expeditions. He and another man survived that disaster, but at a cost. Terohaute consumed the flesh of his companions, and fed it to some of the other stranded men, passing it off as game he had killed.

For this cannibalism, both he and Johnson were changed into Wendigos, driven to eat human flesh and shun the company of mankind. Franklin has been trying to cure himself of the curse, but Terohaute has embraced it.

Henni’s family and the boys come up with a plan to take away much of Terohaute’s power and send Albert, who is tired of his long life, in the next world.

And that’s all I’m going to tell you about that.

There’s a lot of what film fans would call Easter Eggs in this book. Trudeau says things like “Just watch me” and is presented with a red rose to wear in his lapel as a charm against danger. Berton takes notes on everything and is outwardly full of himself, while inwardly unsure, as befits a boy whose growth spurt came to him late in his youth.

They meet again four years after the events of this story, after Wop May has had a hand in tracking down the Mad Trapper, who was operating out of that cabin on Rat River and displayed unnatural endurance while he was fleeing from the RCMP in the winter. Guess who?

After they have caught up with each other’s lives, Berton asks Trudeau if he has ever considered a life in politics.

“Yeah, sure,” Trudeau replies with a laugh. “The chance of me becoming prime minister is about as good as you becoming a best selling author.”

Happily, Pitt has provided eight pages of actual facts about his dramatis personae, so that the readers can separate the fact from the fiction. The two Pierres certainly met during their lives, but not in Dawson in 1931.

-30-

 

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