Tanis Rideout Roughs It: Canadian Adventure Books
Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat: It’s a Canadian classic and the kind of tale most people think of when asked about Canadian adventures. Farley Mowat travels to the frozen tundra to track and study arctic wolf populations at the behest of the Canadian Government. Alone. And while the book may or may not be factually accurate, it does paint a visceral, beautiful and, at times, hilarious picture of Canada’s far north—panicked encounters with wolves, the ritual marking of the territory, assistance from local guides and a plea to protect Canada’s resources. Mowat’s tone and characterisations might read a little dated, but his anger and grief about how the government manages our resources sure is resonant today.
Roughing it in the Bush by Susanna Moodie: Another classic and one of Canada’s first adventure books—a journal of what it was like to try and tame the wilds of Upper Canada in the 1830s when the Canadian men were boors and the Canadian women were bores. Moodie and her husband face down illness, starvation, fire, failed crops, and stolen livestock, but at the same time find the quiet glory in the landscape that has been found by so many that followed them—the long days out in the canoe, the hushed gossip around a campfire.
The TE Lawrence Poems by Gwendolyn MacEwen: MacEwen’s poems are so visceral that we ride on camel with Lawrence as he crosses the vast, beautiful, brutal Arabian Desert. We’re sinking in quick sand, armed for the attack on a coastal city, and witnesses to train heists and explosions. MacEwen brings to spectacular life one of the great adventurers and adventures of the twentieth century.
Every Lost Country by Steven Heighton: Most of Heighton’s books have an adventure aspect to them. This one has an attempt to summit an Himalayan peak and a group of captured fugitives making a daring escape across the high border of China and Nepal. An edge of your seat, high altitude chase.
The Outlander by Gil Adamson: Murder, a chase, sex with a mountain hermit and mine explosions. Mary Boulton murders her husband and then flees his two brothers who aim to bring her to justice. Her escape at the edges of the Canadian frontier takes her into the forest and mountains where she meets the Ridgerunner—a man who’s been living on the lam for nine years. After a brief affair she ends up alone again before arriving in a town that is utterly decimated by a landslide. A great Canadian western.
The Scott Pilgrim series by Brian O’Malley: The Scott Pilgrim books are urban fantasy adventure and a graphic novel series to boot. Romance, indie bands, video game fist fights, samurai, sub-space portals, a dark mirror version of our hero, kidnappings and more. It’s knockout punch after knockout punch with a rock and roll soundtrack. And it all takes place in Toronto. Level up.
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood: A post-apocalyptic road story – in a world prowled by dangerous genetically designed animals – pigeons, rakunks and wolvogs. In Atwood’s dystopia, even the sun is brutally dangerous, beating down and threatening to melt our isolated and lonely hero Snowman. Stalked by what seems like a particularly smart and wily pigoon, Snowman has to make it back to the scene of humanity’s demise or die himself.
Deathful Ridge by J.A. Wainwright: It’s a novel about George Mallory and Mount Everest, both, obviously, dear to my heart. A poetic, what-if take on the Mallory and Irvine disappearance—Wainwright proposes a Mallory that survives Everest, but is fractured and silenced by the experience. It’s all the frigid adventure of Everest from a unique persepctive. It's a small book epically written.
Tanis Rideout received her MFA from the University of Guelph-Humber, and she has been a finalist for the Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers and the CBC Literary Awards. In 2006, she was named Poet Laureate for Lake Ontario by Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and joined Gord Downie on a tour to promote environmental justice on the lake. Sometimes referred to as the Poet Laureate of CanRock, Tanis joined Sarah Harmer’s I Love the Escarpment Tour to read a commissioned poem. She was born in Belgium, grew up in Bermuda and in Kingston, Ontario, and now lives in Toronto.
Her novel Above All Things has just been published, which weaves together the harrowing story of George Mallory's ill-fated 1924 attempt to be the first man to conquer Mount Everest, with that of a single day in the life of his wife as she waits at home in England for news of his return.