Neglected Classic #2

Posted by Daniel on Feb 17, 2009 - 5 comments

By the time Martin Grainger was 33 years old he had been a mathematics student at Cambridge, a packer in northern BC, a volunteer soldier in the Boer War and a teacher of the martial arts in London. Why not add writer to his list of accomplishments? In the fall of 1908 Grainger published his first book, a novel loosely based on the six months he had spent a few years earlier at a logging camp up Knight Inlet on the BC coast. Titled Woodsmen of the West, the book sold barely any copies at all before disappearing into obscurity. Grainger himself sold the copyright to a friend for $300 which he used to buy a ticket back to BC where he married his sweetheart at Miners Bay on Mayne Island and took up teaching at a school for girls in Victoria.

Woodsmen remained little known until 1964 when it was reprinted as part of the New Canadian Library series. One does not read the book for plot. Rather it offers a fascinating eye-witness account of the early days of handlogging on the coast, as well as a glimpse of life in Vancouver's East End before it became the notorious Downtown Eastside.

Grainger went on to have a distinguished career as one of the architects of forest policy in the province. He was a true British eccentric, a health faddist -- Bruce Hutchison once wrote that Grainger "lived on walnuts and celery" -- who was also a heavy smoker, rolling his own cigarettes in brown paper that he also used to write notes during meetings. He always wore leather mocassins, made to order for him in a northern First Nations village.

His book is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of our coast.

Labels: BOOKS