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North, Dick.

Toronto, Macmillan, 1987. l60pp, paper, $5.95, ISBN 0-7715-9273-6. CIP

Grades 7 and up
Reviewed by Alan Thomas

Volume 16 Number 2
1988 March

This is a lively and detailed journalistic account of the confrontation and running battle between a lone trapper, Albert Johnson, and the RCMP in the western subarctic in the winter of 1932 that concluded with the death of Johnson. One police constable was also killed and two others were wounded in a series of skirmishes that ranged through woods, river valleys and mountain passes west of the Mackenzie and into the northern Yukon Territory. For much of the forty-eight days of the affray and pursuit, Johnson and the police tracking parties were travelling and living outdoors in temperatures of an average of forty degrees below zero. Johnson displayed extraordinary resourcefulness and stamina. The novel use by police of a bush plane appears to have tipped the balance. Not surprisingly, it has become a celebrated saga of the North.

The author is fair in his approach and proposes several explanations for the rapid escalation of a trivial police inquiry of a trapping dispute into the hunt to the death which followed. The background and "outside" identity of Albert Johnson and the cause of the initial outburst of violence remain a mystery which many young readers will find genuinely interesting. This account was first published by Macmillan in 1969, went through several reprintings and is now brought out in their inexpensive "Paperbacks" series. Photographs and the map do not reproduce well on the quality of paper used; the back-cover summary is seriously inaccurate.

Alan Thomas, Scarborough College, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ont.
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