Monday, August 26, 2013

22. Dale of the Mounted Sub Hunt by Joe Holliday

Here is a nice little piece of post-war Canadian propaganda.  As a physical artifact, it was just so beautiful that I had to pick it up, despite it's beat-up condition.  How great is that illustration on the front!  It's almost Hergé-esque in its geometry and soft-focus, with a filter of 50s modern abstraction.  What is going on on the cover here actually happens in the book as well.  Unfortunately, the book itself is quite boring, in keeping with its Canadianness.  The adventure part of it is simply a frame for the author to repeat paragraphs of information that seem quoted verbatim from Fisheries Canada pamphlets.  It is divided into two parts, the first taking place in Atlantic Canada and the second in my old stomping grounds, Nanaimo! 

In both cases, Dale goes undercover.  In the first, he joins up with a fishing crew.  This section was actually not so boring, as it described the fish-trapping techniques used in the Bay of Fundy.  Wide nets would be installed in the ground at low tide and then when the tide came up and went out again, the men would unload the traps with all the fish stuck in them.  The mystery starts here when a body is discovered in one of the traps.  Actually, looking back, this was a pretty cool start.  From there, though, it all gets kind of boring, at least narrative-wise.  The problem is the writing style, so that even when we get away from factual info and statistics about the Atlantic Fisheries, it is all still dull and stilted. 

In the second half, Dale takes on the disguise of a young applicant for the Fisheries department in their research center at the West Coast Biological Center in Departure Bay.  Here, we have lots of optimistic enthusiasm about all the science being applied to the fishing industry and how it is going to make it even easier for Canada to deplete the oceans.

What is fascinating, and depressing, about this book, is how there is not a single mention of conservation.  Everything that the government is doing in the Atlantic and the Pacific side, is made to increase yield.  There is an oblique mention of ensuring the future existence of fish populations when they mention poaching and efforts to reduce it.  This book was written just a few decades before the total collapse of the entire Atlantic Fisheries and you can see the profound ignorance and greed that was the dominant culture of the government and the industry at the time.  Not that it's changed much today, sadly.

I scanned the back cover as well, which has examples of the entire line.  It's a shame that these weren't better written, because they are quite beautifully designed and would make a great collection of Canadiana for a bookshelf.


Kelly Robinson said...

Hmmm, I guess I'll just go straight to the Fisheries Canada pamphlets.

WeSailFurther said...

What about the submarine!?

OlmanFeelyus said...

Oh yeah, sorry. This really was not one of my better reviews. The thing is, the sub is only there for a teeny portion of the entire book. It is part of a conspiracy of unnamed agitators (most likely "Reds") who are planning to blow up these sophisticated radar stations (as seen on the cover). The sub shows up when a saboteur is caught on the radar station. He escapes by jumping off and swimming to the sub. That's the last we see of it. Though they do go after them later, but I think they just drive them away. Maybe they blew it up with depth charges, but it was all done off screen and seemed so unimportant that I can't even remember what actually happened.

Unknown said...

Dale of the Mounted in Hong Kong is more exciting and his view of China is ok though not great. I recognized many of the landmarks and streets and he has HK geography straight.

Addie Harris said...

So, basically, the main problem is that the book was written in 1958 and the author wasn't psychic. That seems to be true of almost all books written in the past.

OlmanFeelyus said...

Um, no. Lots of good books written in 1958 that I have enjoyed and reviewed here.