Thursday, November 24, 2011

Paul St. Pierre, Smith and Other Events (1984)

Long out of print, Paul St. Pierre's stories in this collection are a total pleasure—wryly humorous and sharply detailed in their understanding of his characters' behavior, motives, and feelings. Set mostly in the Chilcotin of British Columbia, the stories take place in the 1950s and share the same dozen or so characters—ranchers and their families, Indians, a cowboy or two, and a storekeeper.

The longest story, "How to Run the Country," involves a handful of politicos in Vancouver who persuade a local rancher to run for office. The author, having served a term as a Member of Parliament himself, tells this story with apparent delight as he interweaves the complex ironies of political careers and ambitions.

My favorites of the bunch include stories about the premature funeral for an old Indian from the local reservation, the long suffering of a ranch wife who literally spills the beans on her husband, an elderly recluse's long-distance romance with a young woman, and a husband and wife's indecision about whether to sell the ranch. In another, a mid-winter trip to town evolves, thanks to a cowboy's gambling winnings, into a days-long bacchanal in a hotel room.

Smith, the title character, is vividly drawn, perfectly believable, and as likable as he can be obtuse. The others, his wife Norah, sons Sherwood and Roosevelt, Arch McGregor, Morton Dilloughboy and his son Abel, cowboy Henry James, Ol Antoine the Indian patriarch, Frenchie and Frenchie's wife (who gets her own story), all of them are equally memorable, including Ken Larsen, whose arch-conservative values are no obstacle to his loyalty to the Liberal Party.

St. Pierre’s novel Breaking Smith’s Quarter Horse (reviewed here a while ago) takes up with the same characters and is equally enjoyable. Smith and Other Events is currently available at amazon, AbeBooks, and alibris.

Friday’s (Canadian) Forgotten Books is the bright idea of Patti Abbott over at pattinase.

Coming up: Meek's Cutoff

Postcard, 1900


8 comments:

  1. I like that cover. Happy thanksgiving!

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  2. I'll add it to my list, which is getting longer by the week.

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  3. Paul St. Pierre's books are very enjoyable reading. They are humorous and show the west from the side of contemporary natives.

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  4. This is one of my favorites. I believe it won a Spur Award. I remember meeting him; a gracious and gifted man. Thanks for bringing it to notice once again.

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  5. I was reading recently about the Chilcotin hills, so I will order this from Amazon.

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  6. The political story sounds interesting. As for myself, I'm hoping that like the old Indian, I'm given a premature funeral.

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  7. Charles, the cover appeals to me, too.

    Oscar, it's hard to be a writer AND a reader; there's not time for both.

    PAG, I agree.

    Richard, thanks for your own generous comment.

    Cheyenne, it's a beautiful part of an already beautiful province.

    Jeff, both are amusing stories.

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  8. Being something of a political animal, I'm embarrassed to say that I did not know St. Pierre had once served in Parliament. Must track down his speeches - I bet they'll make for pretty interesting reading.

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