JOAN SULLIVAN: ‘Redjack’ advances Newfoundland historical fiction series

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ST. JOHN’S, NL — JThe novel ‘Redjack’ builds on the events of ‘The Crackie’ and ‘The Place’, prequels that established and built the core characters found here.

All three are very deeply rooted historical developments in Newfoundland in the late 19th and early 20th century, including the continuation of the fishery, the colony’s entry into World War I, and what happened next. at the Newfoundland Regiment, as well as the ebb and flow of global travel. and the trade that fueled the rise and fall of fortunes in even the most isolated isolated ports, with its family and community dynamics in what are sometimes euphemistically referred to as “simpler times”.

You don’t need to have read those early books to follow the plot of “Redjack,” as relevant information is woven into this new prose.

A brief prologue situates Redjack, the despised, beaten and adrift killer.

His punishment came at the hands of his son, central to the story here:

“His name was Jacob and his name was Jake. Everyone called him the Crackie behind his back. He came by name at an early age. As he grew up, he was quite good at shooting seabirds and seals. And during the war he served as a lance corporal and sniper in the Battle of Sulva Bay in the Dardanelles. He got pretty good at it too. Jake was a real sharpshooter, they said. Crackie’s nickname persisted. After a while, he didn’t care as much as he had when he was younger. It was then a curse for him. It was more like a tenderness now. “

We are now in July 1919, after the war that saw Jake injured in the leg and disabled from the conflict. It’s also been years since Jake promised his friend Michael that he would personally deliver a letter to his mother, Catherine Kelly, at Trinity.

Jake, his wife Eliza, their son Templar and their dog Buff will travel together in a four-oared punt.

They are together in their resolve, as well as their uncertainty about whether Michael’s mother is still alive.

“An eagle took off from the high heights they were rapidly approaching and hovered low over the surging sloop, as if wondering why they had dared to enter its domain… Rounding a bend in a long fjord under a hungry sailing, they weaved their way among the outer islands guarding the beaches as the tide ebbed.

Redjack By Gary Collins Flanker Press $19.95 226 – Contribution

The tragic story of Redjack

Redjack had survived his ordeal and settled into a shack on a beach echoing with Beothuk artifacts, embracing logging and trapping. Redjack’s own story is tragic:

“Jack didn’t like the job of a fish killer, but he paid cash, unlike the truck system, and after a while he got tough on it.”

He supported his wife, Sophie, and their child, Emmeline, whom he loved.

“Their life together has been blossoming and good. Then, one summer evening, Jack returned from a long stretch of fish-slaughtering to be told that his wife and daughter were dead and buried. More shockingly, the circumstances point to murder and suicide. Jack knows why, information he does not share;

Hurt in the past, and still without shedding a tear, an enraged Jack left the community the next day and never returned. His hatred for all women began then, and he expressed his contempt at every opportunity.


“His name was Jacob and his name was Jake. Everyone called him the Crackie behind his back. He came by name at an early age. As he grew up, he was quite good at shooting seabirds and seals. And during the war he served as a lance corporal and sniper in the Battle of Sulva Bay in the Dardanelles. He got pretty good at it too. Jake was a real sharpshooter, they said. Crackie’s nickname persisted. After a while, he didn’t care as much as he had when he was younger. It was then a curse for him. It was more like a tenderness now. “


Afterwards, Redjack catches a live fox, which soon gives birth to a litter of kits – a commission from someone who wants to start breeding them for fur.

To his surprise, he begins to feel protective of the creature:

“She was beautiful. Redjack was struck by the resemblance between her hair and his. There was a fleeting thought to set her free.

As Jake and Redjack struggle to accomplish their divergent feats, geography, weather, and family lines strive to bring them together.

In the background awaits Rebecca, Jake’s mother, a troubled woman who has at times treated her son with great cruelty.

This animosity faded with the birth of Templar, and the boy seems destined to bind his father and grandfather in some conflict or resolution.

“We have a bad history. “It’s hard to get over it,” Jake said.

But the stakes moving forward are very high. International events begin to intrude on their personal interactions, including a certain emerging and virulent disease:

“Keep your distance, sir! Ever heard of the Spanish flu? Where have you been, man? Not sick, is it?

In the coming crisis, everyone – even this fox – has a role to play.

Joan Sullivan is the editor of Newfoundland Quarterly magazine.

She reviews both fiction and non-fiction for The Telegram.


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