A noted craftsman, Robert Harlow is one of Canada's finest story-tellers.

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Royal Murdoch

Royal Murdoch is Robert Harlow´s initial novel. Now, forty years beyond its original 1962 publication, it is still an eventful read about a place and its time that few have experienced.

Royal Murdoch founded the town of Linden in Northern British Columbia and became its mayor for twenty-seven years. There in his fiefdom he lived two lives, one with Emma, his wife, and the other – until she died – with Yvonne, his aboriginal mistress. With Emma he had two children, Ruby and Jeremy, who were left to their mother to bring up while Royal´s energy and enterprise nurtured Linden, and also Yvonne and her son, Roger, who wasn´t Royal´s, but who was his favourite. On one side of his twenty acre property he built a home for Emma, and on the other he installed Yvonne in the cabin he´d built when he first came to this northern country.

Old now, Royal lies dying of cancer in an upstairs bedroom. He is not someone to dream of the past, and does not expect that the past must now be paid off. Emma, old now too, looks after him as best she can, and dreams of peace in her last years. But Royal is not a good patient, and she is becoming exhausted with the ordeal of his death. She writes Ruby and Jeremy and asks them to come home to support her. Part of the Murdoch´s unresolved past, they do not bring with them the quiet order Emma has hoped for. She writes Roger, too, because she knows that he is important to Royal and his visit may make his passing easier. And finally, to help nurse Royal, and give her more time with Ruby and Jeremy, she hires a young, innocent, convent-bred Native woman name Mary Ann, whose presence becomes the destructive element that eventually makes chaos out of the mix of conflicts and desires both in the house and in the town.

Royal and Emma´s last act together is to invite the people of Linden to a huge garden party so that Royal can, one last time, work his politician´s magic and rescue for Emma the Murdoch name and legacy from the ruinous visitation of Roger, Mary Ann and their children. Parties, gatherings at nightclubs, in hotel rooms or other venues are a part of all of the author´s novels. This first one results in triumph for Emma, but the cost is higher than anyone expected.

Judged a fine beginning when it was first published, Royal Murdoch is still worthy of attention.

Click here to read an excerpt.

 

"Royal Murdoch" by Robert Harlow

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| Necessary Dark | Royal Murdoch | Contact |

 

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