by Allan Safarik
An historically accurate novel about an international showdown between police forces, and at the same time a picaresque tale of cops and robbers and life along the Canada/US prairie border at the end of the 19th Century.
Swedes' Ferry is the story of Constable Leslie Simpson, a Manitoba-born member of the North-West Mounted Police, who takes a little time off from his day job to make a quick buck south of the border, robbing the First National Bank in Bismarck, North Dakota. When he gets away with the Great Northern Railroad payroll, but inadvertently kills the bank manager in the process, he winds up battling to stave off the intentions of not only a very nasty Pinkerton agent, but the third-richest man in the United States. The chase is on, across much of the Canadian prairies and the northern American plains, because the bank happens to be owned by Canadian-born James J. Hill, the real-life railroad millionaire who is named in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Hill crisscrosses the plains on his recently-completed railroad, with his opera singer and dominatrix travelling companions. He’s used to getting what he wants and keeping what he has. So when he loses his Great Northern payroll in Bismark, what he most wants is for the vicious William Pinkerton and his sleazy henchman Jiggs Dubois to bring him the head of the varmint that took it.
This is fascinating historical fiction, full of detailed information about the prairie border country, the people, the horses, and the weaponry, as well as the customs and cultural peccadilloes of the day in neighbouring nations that are developing in very different ways.