Pages and Patches Review - Swede's Ferry

Reviewed by: Devin Pacholik

Every great villain worth telling a story about needs some scars – emotional, psychological marks that give them a reason for being a villain. There are those raw vices such as greed and wrath, which villains manifest into awful deeds; but, a villain never believes they are acting for evil. 

A villain's scars tell the stories of survival, fear and longing.

Allan Safarik is an author who understands the importance of those dynamics. His western novel Swedes' Ferry, set in the late 1800s in Canada and America, opens with a bank robber striking a deal with a Canadian horse rancher. In exchange for an injured horse and pile of money, the rancher Bud gives the robber Leslie Simpson, a.k.a  Tall Bob, a fresh steed to escape on and the assurance he won't get ratted out.

There are a few catches in the deal: Tall Bob murdered a bank manager south of the border; the horse he traded in is unique-looking and easy-to-spot for authorities; and the money he stole happens to be the property of one of the most powerful men in North America.

The money belongs to railroad tycoon James J. Hill, who planned on using it to pay his employees. His employees are ever-on-the-verge of strike action over wages and rights. Needless to say, Hill wants his money back.

Safarik, a master of character writing, makes his villains sympathetic.

Simpson has a poor family and a sick mother back home. We see his misery when he returns home to the debt load accumulated by his near-invalid mother and hardworking sister, both of whom are pushed to the brink trying to raise their family without a father to provide for them.

It's at this point we learn one of the most crucial twists in the plot – who Simpson is and what risks he's taking.

I won't to spoil that.

Safarik's story combines historical facts with a dazzling adventure set on the frontier plains. As detectives close in on Tall Bob and the unwitting Bud, we are pulled into a tenacious net. The multi-layered characters reveal alluring psychologies through acts of kindness sometimes and feats of malice others.

None of the characters are purely good; none are purely evil; all are rich and beautiful.

Swedes' Ferry takes an empathetic approach to the western adventure genre. Safarik's gunslingers aim for the heart – they fight for power and money just as much as they fight for honour, passion and family

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