So I haven’t read this book. I bought it a few weeks back on an emotional high coming out of the “Alberta and the Great War” exhibit at the Borealis Gallery. The exhibit was fantastic, visceral. My senses were engaged as I took in a ‘to scale’ replica section of trench. Dog tags of the Albertan man whose story I was to follow on this journey held firmly in my slightly sweaty hand. He was in his forties and covered in tattoos, so the biographical information told me. Damn… And he joined with his son who was 18. Double Damn.
The book delivers on what it promises, an explanation of the roots of western alienation in Canada. But its a very one-sided story that plays fast and loose with its narrative. More “popular” than “history,” Let the Eastern Bastards Freeze in the Dark; the West Versus the Rest Since Confederation just rehashes the same old perspectives on its topic, and ultimately reaffirms the Canadian State, rather than sounding a note of caution about how it may choose to handle future conflicts involving western resources and national economic development.
In late 1941 Joe Schmidt, just recently an esteemed resident of Cold Lake, Alberta, was hand picked by the Nazi’s to be a saboteur as part of Operation Pastorius, the Nazi attack on America. He was considered a promising student, and because of his looks, and the fact that he could affect a Swedish accent when he spoke English, he took the alias Jerry Swenson. He was assigned to the first team which was led by George Dasch. Dasch had also been hand picked by Walter Kappe, the recruiter and manager of the project.
Read Part I
Joe Schmidt was born in Cologne, Germany in 1911. He had left in the mid 1920’s to come to Alberta where he found work on farms, eventually obtaining a homestead near Cold Lake in 1933.
He was energetic and enterprising. He made his money variously as a mink rancher, trucker, fisher, hunter, trapper and seller of fence posts made from trees he’d cut himself, clearing the land. He did well, and by the late 1930’s he included managing the Cold Lake operation of an Edmonton Fish Packing company on his list of jobs.
March 23, 1984. Three articles in the Friday edition of the Edmonton Journal. ‘Cold Lake’s lone-wolf served on Hitlers terror squad;’ ‘Cold Lake’s ‘Nazi Spy’ was just plain Joe;’ and ‘Schmidt a star pupil in Hitlers school for saboteurs.
Fast forward 33 years, I’m in the process of surveying a file of clipped newspaper articles to do with Cold Lake, Alberta, dating back near a century, for another project. These ones stand out in the file and with a keen interest for local and military history I’m immediately caught by the story.
This is a selection of past work, mostly Acrylic on Canvas.
I enjoyed this book, it reminded me of why I read sci-fi novels so eagerly as a kid. It’s got it all, neat science and tech, an alien species with whom humanity finds itself locked in a bitter struggle, an outcome that is far from certain and a vision of our future meant to provoke thought. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, according to the wikipedia page, was, after all, written “in an attempt to “clarify his…political views” while under attack for his ideas and activism in defence of nuclear weapons testing by the USA during the 1950’s. Despite being so much more than science fiction, Starship Troopers went on to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1960 and continues to be a money maker.