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Sunday, October 13, 2019

NORTHWESTERNS—THE SCARLET RIDERS

 NORTHWESTERNS
THE SCARLET RIDERS
Unmatched courage—Bringing justice to the new lands of the lawless Canadian West was a tough assignment, so the Mounties prepared themselves for a rough battle. New to the frontier the brave and idealistic riders of the Scarlet Serge were destined for a long tour of death—until they were joined by a bold Indian fighter named Cavannagh. Together, they would create the grand legend of the Scarlet Riders...

Perusing a used bookstore recently in the heart of Kansas, four titles in the seven book paperback original series, The Scarlet Riders, somehow leapt out of the Western section and snagged my interest. I was looking for something different and these seemed intriguing—Mounties chasing outlaws across the vast Northwest Territories and ferocious wastelands of the Yukon.

The Mounties are reputed to always get their man, and in this case, they definitely got me. I read the first book in the series later the same day and was hooked. This was good stuff. What I had expected to be a Canadian version of the adult Westerns such as Longarm and Rough Justice, was so much more—this was simply an excellent high adventure take on the traditional Western.

I was familiar with the term Northwesterns as applied to this genre—quasi Westerns taking place in the snow north of the border into Canada—but beyond a couple if Jack London tales it was uncharted territory for me.

At its heart, a Northwestern is a traditional Western transplanted from the prairie to the frozen tundra of the Canadian frontier or the big empty of Alaska. The trappings of a Northwestern (snow, sled dogs, scarlet tunics, etc.) may be somewhat different, but the tropes are virtually identical to those of the Western genre.

In the case of Northwesterns, The Hudson Bay Company fulfills the role played in Westerns by evil cattle barons or railroad tyrants. This became so entrenched in the Northwestern genre that the actual Hudson Bay Company became despised. 

In 1921, the HBC successful sued the Famous Players-Lasky Corporation as the responsible party for the villainous portrayal of the Hudson Bay Company in the remake of the film The Call of the North—in which the Hudson Bay Company is shown executing convicts by forcing them into the wilderness without equipment or supplies.

Interestingly, in Northwesterns, French Canadians—often considered inferior,  ignorant, and villainous by other Canadians—take on the role played by Hispanics in traditional Westerns. French Canadian women fared little better—being portrayed as the equivalent of the stereotypical exotic and tempestuous female Hispanic spitfire. 

These femme fatales were often intent on luring the upright Mountie out of his scarlet tunic and boots in order to have their wicked way with them, thus distracting the Mountie from his duty. Mounties, however, are known to be very big on doing their duty and seldom succumb.

An article on Northwesterns in Wikipedia states, The nature of fictional Mounties can vary depending on the nationality of the author. Mounties as written by British authors are often younger members of upper class British families serving the British Empire in the colonies. American-authored Mounties are often little different from US Marshalls and project the values of Westerns in that they place their individual sense of justice and conscience above their duty to the law. 

Canadian-authored Mounties represent, and are self-abnegating champions of, the Canadian establishment and its laws. Further, their authority does not come from either their social class or physical abilities; such a Mountie upholds the law by moral rather than physical force. A common story outline for Northerns involving Mounties is a pursuit, confrontation and capture: the Mountie's pursuit of a fugitive takes place across the Canadian wilderness and may be resolved non-violently.

Returning to The Scarlet Riders books, many series published during the same period were either written by an author using a pseudonym, or written by a group of authors under a house name owned by the publishing company on a work for hire basis (a one time payment with no royalties). However, some quick checking revealed The Scarlet Riders series author, Ian Anderson, not only to be a real person, but also a real Mountie.

Born in Australia in 1930, Ian Anderson decided by age six that he wanted to be a red-coated Canadian Mountie when he grew up. Besides loving the wilderness and sports, Ian was an avid reader driving him to add a becoming a writer to his youthful aspirations.

Growing up during the height of the Northwestern movie craze, Ian saw and was influenced them all—Call of the Wild, O’Malley of the Mounted, King of the Royal Mounted, Red Blood of Courage, North of the Yukon, and Cecil B DeMille’s North West Mounted Police.

Ian began his quest of becoming a Canadian scarlet rider by first serving with the South Australian Mounted Police, where he learned to ride a horse, fight bush fires, and do battle with sword and bayonet.

In 1948, age 18, he journeyed to Canada. A year later, he achieved his goal of joining the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, donning the world-famous red serge jacket and broad-brimmed Stetson for the first time.

In 1965, he left the RCMP to serve as a sub-inspector in the Royal Papua-New Guinea Constabulary, including a stint at the Bomana Police College in Port Moresby.

Eventually, Ian and his wife Mary returned to Australia.  Settling into life in Melbourne, he began to write The Scarlet Riders series, which was first published in Canada before being picked up by Zebra Books for American publication.

THE SCARLET RIDERS #1
CORPORAL CAVANNAGH
The worst kind of scandal: a brave young cavalry Lieutenant and another officer’s wife.  After resigning his commission in the U.S. Seventh Cavalry in disgrace, John Tarlton Cavannagh rides north, where he joins the new North-West Mounted Police. But he must prove himself.  “You’ll nae be wearin’ the Queen’s scarlet yet, Mister Cavannagh,” Sgt. MacGregor growled.  “That’s a privilege ye have tae earn!”

THE SCARLET RIDERS #2
THE RETURN OF CAVANNAGH
Uncharted territory—A power hungry schemer in the U.S. Hired an army of blood thirsty outlaws to massacre the Mounties at Fort Walsh. That was his first step in a cunning conspiracy to grab the huge Northwest Territory from Canada. It was a perfect plan that took everything into account—except a sharp-shooting man named Cavannagh.

THE SCARLET RIDERS #3
BEYOND THE STONE HEAPS
Fresh from slaughtering Custer and his men at Little Big Horn the Sioux cross into Canada. But Cavannagh is hard on their trail seeking the renegade chief who has launched a vicious mission of vengeance. With death on all sides, Cavannagh boldly rides into the Sioux camp. Only he can stop a raging war that would end just one way, a Mountie massacre!

THE SCARLET RIDERS #6
THE FLYING PATROL
All along the Canadian border, Iron Fist Taggert and his crew were slaughtering people and seizing their homesteads. Hugh O'Reilly, a new Scarlet Rider recruit, refused to let them rob hardworking people of their lands--and swore to stop them or go down fighting to preserve the Scarlet Riders' legends.

THE SCARLET RIDERS #7
DEAD OR ALIVE
Trail To Vengeance—A daring Montana bank robbery had left two law abiding citizens lying dead in the dust and the owlhoots responsible galloping north to Canada and safety. But Deputy U.s. Marshal William James Edson wasn't about to let a trio of outlaws get away with murder just by slipping over into another country. Edson believed in justice pure and simple. And he'd ride through the flaming gates of Hell itself to make sure the murdering Jaspers stretched hemp for their crime—even if he had to ride in alone!

Trail To Glory—Nobody felt justice's pull more than Corporal Colin MacGregor of the Northwest Mounted Police. Joining forces with the determined U.S. Marshal, the Mountie took off in pursuit of the dangerous desperados across the vast Canadian wilderness. But six thousand renegade Sioux stood in the way of lawmen and outlaws alike. And faced with the blood-hungry Redskins, desperate killers, and the savage, fast approaching Canadian winter, it looked like nothing short of death would be MacGregor's price for preserving the glory of The Scarlet Riders.

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