Send me the best of your breeding,
lend me your chosen ones;
Them I will take to my bosom,
them will I call my sons;
Them will I gild with my treasure,
them will I glut with my meat;
But the others—the misfits, the failures---
I trample under my feet.—Robert Service, “The Law of the Yukon”
The Western is an expansive territory that encompasses not the just the Great Plains, the dusty trails, the fastnesses of the Rockies, and the desiccated lands of the Southwest.
To authors such as Louis L ’Amour and George Goodchild, and collector Jeff C, Dykes, the definition of “Western” was too constricting, they preferred a descriptor more along the lines of “Novels of the Frontier.” Be that frontier the Alleghenies during the French and Indian War, or the pampas of the Uruguayan gauchos or, as we have here, the frigid Arctic North.
The themes remain—environment as vital character, conflict can be with the land and weather itself or it can be more of the two-legged variety, but the untamed land is always part of the allure.
This anthology gives us nine excursions into the frigid frontier.
It opens with a knowledgeable introduction from the always on point western authority Jon Tuska.
We get a ballad from Poet of the Yukon, Robert Service with his “The Trail of ‘Ninety-Eight.”
Authors included are…
· Rex Beach
· Jack London
· James Oliver Curwood
· Max Brand
· Dan Cushman
· Les Savage Jr.
· James B. Hendryx
· Tim Champlin
To this reader, the stand-out was Rex Beach’s tale The Test, with Jack London, Max Brand [a surprise to me as I usually do not care for this author’s brand of purple prose,] and Dan Cushman also showing strong.
As for the other tales…life is short, read well, live well.
For my money, Tuska’s introduction and Beach’s story were worth the price of admission.