Friday, October 21, 2016

Forgotten Books: The Long Arm of the Mounted - James French Dorrance

I'm always in the market for a good Mountie yarn, so when I came across a copy of THE LONG ARM OF THE MOUNTED, published by Macaulay in 1926, at Half Price Books, I bought it even though I wasn't familiar with the author, James French Dorrance. Even after more than fifty years of reading pulps, and reading about pulps, from time to time I still run across an author from that era who's new to me. Such is the case with Dorrance, who produced dozens of stories for the pulps during the first three decades of the Twentieth Century along with a number of novels, many of them Northerns with protagonists from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

This novel is actually more Western than Northern, because the hero, RCMP Sergeant John Childress, is working undercover for practically the entire book, pretending to be a horse rancher just across the border from Montana. Rustlers from the States have been crossing to border to raid the herds of the Canadian ranchers in the area, and it's Childress's assignment to break up the gang and bring its leader to justice.

That job is complicated by a couple of beautiful young women, one the daughter of the rancher just west of the spread Childress takes over, the other the young widow who owns the ranch to the east. Both of them fall for Childress, he's torn between them, and that romantic triangle takes up a considerable portion of the book. Childress never completely loses sight of his assignment, though, and eventually he uncovers the hidden mastermind behind the rustling (whose identity will come as no surprise to anybody who's ever read many Westerns).

Dorrance's writing style is on the old-fashioned side, as you'd expect from a book published ninety years ago, and to be honest, this novel could have used a little more action. The story flows along pretty well, though, and there are a couple of nice slam-bang scenes late in the game. Dorrance wastes an opportunity for an even better climax, however, giving the reader a rather limp ending instead. All that said, I enjoyed the book quite a bit. I like putting myself in the mindset of readers from previous eras, as should be obvious from all the old books I read. I can see why Dorrance wasn't a big name but also why he had a fairly long and productive career. THE LONG ARM OF THE MOUNTED is a mild but pleasant diversion from real life. These days, most of the time I'll take that and be grateful for it.

No comments: