Claudia N. Oltean
“Blood and Dust”
Author: JC Paulson
Writing of the Black Rose, 302 pages, $20.95
JC Paulson, the Canadian author of the famous mystery/novel series “Adam & Grace”, told us a story from her country’s past. “Blood and Dust” is set in the 1880s, and I loved it from the first page. The story opens in Toronto, Ontario, a booming city of growth and opportunity. We meet young James Sinclair. He lives at home with a kind and caring mother and a father who is never easy, especially when alcohol has taken him.
By obligation, Sinclair is apprenticed to his father as a machinist. That changes abruptly one night when his father beats him within an inch of his life. Sinclair decides he must make his own way in the world. He leaves his parents’ house for a boarding house run by a nice woman who takes care of young single men who work. He becomes an apprentice to a goldsmith mentor and finds he has a natural talent for the job. For a time, his life is harmonious and fulfilled.
Fate intervenes when he is falsely accused of raping and impregnating a young woman – the daughter of the most powerful and ruthless man in the land and beyond. He has no chance of getting justice and must flee Toronto at any moment. Fortunately, his landlady is ready to help him and he manages to avoid being captured or killed.
Thus begins an adventure of a lifetime. Sinclair hops on a train, hobo-style, and rides the tracks out of town. He’s heading far west into wild territory – presumably beyond the reach of the man who wants his skin. Along the way, he meets a contact from his landlady who provides him with a beautiful horse named Buck and a gun. Sinclair is a soft foot, so his new friend teaches him horseback riding, shooting, and survival on the vast plains he will roam alone. Fortune seems to smile on this capable and honorable young man with a benevolent heart.
There are many trails and trials ahead for Sinclair. He meets friends and foes along his dusty path and encounters violence that tests his mettle. After several weeks of riding, he went to Moose Jaw, a town in the provisional territory of Saskatchewan. He finds a job, loyal friends, a lover and plans to establish his home there. At this point in author Paulson’s story, the action heats up. It turns out the Toronto man is relentlessly pursuing Sinclair. A group of his gunmen followed him to Moose Jaw. His life and that of his friends are threatened and he must decide whether to flee or stay and fight. What happens next has me turning pages late into the night.
“Blood and Dust” is a touching and captivating story of a bygone era. He brings to the page good and evil, love, loyalty and self-sacrifice – principles that seem less obvious in today’s era. Reading her other works, I knew that Paulson was a talented storyteller. It seamlessly integrates aspects of Canadian history into the story of its main character. As in all his books, in addition to the action there is romance – drawn in his skillful style.
I highly recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction and westerns, and to all those who love great tales, well told.
Jacksonville author Claudia N. Oltean is currently completing a two-book series of historical fiction set during Prohibition/The Roaring 20s. www.oltean.com.