Friday, February 01, 2013

3. The Stingaree by Max Brand

This was part of my alley way find.  I don't know much about Max Brand, but I think he was a popular western writer, as the cover of this book has its own MB logo on it.  What was neat about The Stingaree is that it is a Northern Western, taking place somewhere in a small northern town in Canada.  The protagonist is a young orphan boy who is both a local terror and troublemaker, but also an adoptee, loved by the entire town.  He lives a rough and tumble life, learning all the skills of the outdoors from local outdoorsmen and Indians while also leading a gang of youths that control one side of the town and battle the gang from the other side.  One day, while in the forest trying to train a half-wild wolf-dog, he stumbles upon an out-of-towner, an impressive man with a remarkable gun accuracy, who appears to have walked from the south.

The boy becomes his ambassador to the town and the reader soons learns that this man has a reputation and a mission.  He is the infamous but honourable criminal, the Stingaree, who has come north to avenge the murder of his partner by one of the more respectable citizens of the town.  The boy is put in a difficult ethical position and forced to make difficult decisions.  He must choose between his own ideals and the people he respects in the town, while also trying to figure out what those things are.  The theme of adulthood and identity are forefront in the book.  There is lots of narrative, there is also a lot of introspection.  It's an interesting stew with a mix of flavours.

The last third of the book veers into a different rhtyhm, as the Stingaree, the boy and his Indian ally make a journey even farther to the north, pursued by the RCMP.  This is a long slow survival chase and puts to the test the friendship between the boy and the Stingaree.

An enjoyable read.

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