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Contains: Photos, Bibliography, Index
Alberta scoundrels and scallywags
Alberta’s wildly entertaining history goes well beyond the charactersand events you may read about in a standard prairie history text.Luckily, we have Brian Brennan around to tell the stories of the manyscoundrels and scallywags who have added some color to Alberta life.Brennan offers: “This is a book about people who dared to bedifferent, characters who were either bad or good, naughty or nice,notorious or obscure, and who definitely would not tolerate beingignored.” Brennan’s preferred definition of scallywags and scoundrels is thatof a rascal or a rogue, or the individual who “resisted beingstereotyped, domesticated, branded, ignored, or taxed.” The more than40 profiles cover people ranging from well-known scoundrels (e.g.,legendary Rocky Mountain prospector and trapper William “Wild Bill”Peyto [1868–1943], whose image graces the front cover) to individualswhose infamy is derived from less glamorous or adventurous origins(e.g., Elizabeth “Sweaty Betty” Abott [1919–1989], an Edmontonslum lord in the 1970s and 1980). Treatment of the individuals inBrennan’s gallery is fair and entertaining. Brennan manages to capturethe notoriety of the controversial characters by repeating the gossipthat originally elevated them to their rogue status. However, whenpossible, he tempers the sensationalism by recounting how some of thesestories were later proven to be exaggerations or complete fabricationsspread by neighbors who could not tolerate eccentricity. Brennan’s sources are mostly secondhand, drawing heavily on what herefers to as “raw material,” very often clippings from fellowjournalists’ personal collections. The book is written in an informalstyle, reminiscent of tales that could have been told around thecampfire in years gone by. Future historians may wish for more detaileddocumentation of sources. However, Brennan’s intention was clearly tocreate a book that would be readable, informative, and entertainingrather than a tome that would be used only by history aficionados.Photos included from the Glenbow Archives and the Calgary Herald help toillustrate the rascally personages that the readers of this book willhopefully come to appreciate.
Geoffrey Harder is a public services librarian and manager, Knowledge Common, in the Science and Technology Library of the University of Alberta.
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