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Susan Mayse

Madeira Part (B.C.), Harbour Publish­ing, 1990. 212pp, cloth, $24.95
ISBN1-55017-018-X. CIP

Grades 11 and up/Ages 16 and up
Reviewed by Howard Hurt.

Volume 18 Number 6
1990 November

Susan Mayse is an experienced writer who has turned her hand to materials as diverse as the novel, scripts for radio and articles of commentary for newspapers. She is also a Vancouver Islander with a fascination for local history and the tenacity to follow research wherever it may lead.

Her bibliography of "works con­sulted" includes journals, books, newspapers, pamphlets, personal correspondence, dissertations, manu­scripts, papers, photographs and transcripts that fill four dense pages. She also conducted about forty inter­views with older residents and bor­rowed from the records left by several other historians. The book includes a topical index that seems very complete. Some thirty black-and-white archival photographs and a sketch map of the Comox Lake-Cumberland area provide a visual impression of people and places.

The text is organized into sixteen bite-sized chapters, while the style is an interesting blend of dialogue and exposition. Vocabulary is effective but straightforward. In other words, there is nothing about the way it is written to in any way put it beyond the reach of high school students or the general reader.

The problem is that, despite the exhaustive research, Mayse failed to find the sort of information about Albert Good win to justify a full-blown biogra­phy. We are told that he probably came from Yorkshire, where he must have learned the mining trade, emigrated to Nova Scotia and experienced the bitter coal miners' strike of 1909, came west to the Cumberland mines on Vancouver Island in time to take part in the big walkout of 1912, worked for very brief periods in Merrirt and Fernie, left the coal pits for the Trail smelter, where he helped the union and Socialist Party of Canada, and finally returned to Cumberland, where, in 1918, he was shot while hiding in the woods to avoid conscription.

That sketch is inadequate. His personal life, for example, remains unknown except for the fact that he seems to have had poor teeth and "possibly" a lung problem. Except for the fairly well documented two years in Trail, his work life and politics are also a matter of conjecture.

Still, for some reason, the authorities did go to great lengths to find this unhealthy draft dodger, and the circum­stances of his death and the subsequent investigation were certainly suspect. For some reason, too, his funeral attracted a large crowd and his memory has stayed with oldtimers to the end. The case is intriguing.

Aside from this mystery, the biography will offer a good deal for those with an interest in the activity of unions and changing labour conditions during the decade from 1908 to 1918. It is a contribution to Canadiana that should be purchased by high schools and public libraries in British Columbia and colleges across the country.

Howard Hurt, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C.
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