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Wondrous Woo, The

Wondrous Woo, The

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Inanna Publications

Leung, Carriane




2015-04-23 16:57:19: Nomination was created
2015-04-23 17:03:15: payment successful from Paypal (order 104)
2015-04-24 19:36:53: payment successful from Paypal (order 105)

Luciana Ricciutelli

Editor in Chief

Inanna Publications

Feature film


S. Noël McKay has lived in Alberta most of her life. She attended the University of Alberta for three years, studying English literature. After a career in the transportation industry, she currently works in Edmonton in the field of digital information processing. Stony Point is her debut novel.

Book has sold very well.

“A woman goes to a frontier town searching for her sister’s husband who vanished while researching the struggle of coal miners to organize.”

In 1903, a few weeks after the Frank Slide disaster, pioneering woman journalist Lucille Reilly arrives in the town of Stony Point in the Crowsnest Pass. Stanley Birch, her brother-in-law and fellow newspaper reporter, vanished from the town a few weeks previously, in the company of a coal miners’ union organizer who is also missing. Because of official indifference, Lucille carries out her own investigation into these disappearances. During the course of her enquiry, she makes enemies of both the local North-West Mounted Police officer and the rich, powerful owner of the town coal mine. Both are determined to run her out of Stony Point. But with her own determination, and some unexpected help from the wife of the coal mine owner, Lucille discovers the truth behind the disappearances. She learns the rubble from the Frank Slide has covered up more than the edge of that unfortunate town.

After surviving a beating from her drunken husband, Lucille Reilly follows the example of her role model, journalist Nellie Bly, and becomes a newspaper reporter, an almost impossible feat for a woman in Canada of 1903. Lucille feels thankful to her sister’s husband who found her the job, and when Stanley Birch vanishes while researching a story, she uses all of her determination, resourcefulness, and feisty character to find out what became of him. Her adversary, Henry Best, owns the coal mine in Stony Point. All his life he has enjoyed wealth, security, and privilege. He believes rich, successful men are entitled to rule, but workers and women must stay in their place. When he first meets Lucille he wants to seduce her, but then she beats him in a poker game and humiliates him in front of his friends. Lucille further antagonizes Henry when she persists with her investigation and later sides with the miners during a strike. The conflict between Lucille and Henry Best reaches a climax after she discovers the truth behind the disappearance of her sister’s husband.

Although it takes place in 1903, Stony Point deals with modern themes: the rights of workers and the situation of women. The town coal miners strike for fair wages and a safe workplace. The struggle for labour to organize is taking place again today, with the movement among low-wage retail and fast-food workers who must also fight for respect. In regards to women, in Lucille Reilly’s time they could not vote and were barred from most professions. Modern women of course enjoy much more freedom, because of brave women in history such as Nellie Bly and Lucille Reilly, who showed them they could climb over any obstacle the customs of their times placed in front of them.

Set in Canada’s scenic Crowsnest Pass, Stony Point would make a wonderful movie or television series. In addition to the mountain scenery, the Pass also features many points of historical interest, such as the Frank Slide and traces of the coal-mining industry that once dominated this part of Alberta.


One can best compare Stony Point to the “Murdoch Mysteries” series. Stony Point differs in that it features a female amateur detective as the lead character. Instead of Toronto of the 1890s, Stony Point takes place in a frontier town in Alberta in 1903. The success of the “Murdoch Mysteries” shows that audiences have an interest in historical mystery and dramas.

From Stony Point
On its way west, the Canadian Pacific Railroad train stopped in Frank. Lucille Reilly stepped down from the coach car onto the wooden platform of the tiny station. She looked around in the bright afternoon sunshine. Turtle Mountain loomed above with the broad scar running down the center of its face where the portion of its summit had slid down. A blanket of limestone rubble covered the valley. More mountains rose in the distance along the winding valley of the Crowsnest Pass. Lucille pressed her lips together. How am I going to find Stanley in all this wilderness, she asked herself.
She straightened her shoulders and lifted her head, refusing to be discouraged. A robust woman of medium height with a wide bosom and broad hips, she wore a straw skimmer hat with a white band and a bow on the side of the crown. Her skirt and bodice were in the style of a tennis costume; the cream-coloured bodice had buttons running up the left side and bishop’s sleeves that were baggy but not too large. The skirt had a black belt with a large silver buckle at the waist. Lucille carried a parasol in her right hand. It was too frilly for her outfit, but the parasol was actually a concealed weapon and she never went anywhere without it. As she waited, she glanced at a little watch that hung from a silver chain around her neck. In less than thirty minutes she would arrive in Stony Point, another town in the Crowsnest Pass west of Frank. Her brother-in-law had disappeared from Stony Point almost two weeks ago. It was Lucille’s mission to find him.
With enough anguish in her own life, she didn’t need to gawk at someone else’s; for this reason she didn’t go look at the wreckage from the landslide. But even though a few weeks had passed, one could still marvel at the extent of the disaster. Eighty million tons of rock had crushed the eastern edge of Frank and spread out over the valley for over a square mile. Presently in the town workmen were pushing barrows or carrying shovels and picks up and down either side of Dominion Avenue. At the station returning evacuees stepped off the train with bundles in their arms, and to the left of Lucille a ragged boy was trying to sell a fist-sized rock to one of the train passengers. “Some of the big rocks still got blood on them from rolling over folks,” the boy enthused. Lucille shifted restlessly from foot to foot. Absolutely nothing was fascinating about the number of people the slide had killed or left destitute.
“Lady, you want to hold Frankie Slide? Cost you a nickel, but she’s lucky.” Two girls stood in front of Lucille. The bigger one wore a brown dress of rough homespun and a white ribbon in her hair. The smaller wore a grey dress, black stockings, and scuffed, mismatched shoes. Between them they pushed a baby carriage, an ancient wicker contraption with a dent in its front end. A baby sat in the pram on cushions. The infant, who couldn’t be more than a year old, wore a white cap and skirts. She looked from side to side with growing irritation on her little face. “Her house got flattened when the slide came down,” the bigger girl continued. “They found Frankie here sitting on a hay bale outside – with not a scratch on her.”
“Is that right,” Lucille said. The baby no doubt was one of several Frankie Slides in town, but maybe this was the real one and she could certainly use some luck. She gave the girl a nickel and knelt down to say hello. Frankie Slide whimpered and drew away at first, but Lucille smiled brightly and talked to her, and soon she coaxed a smile out of the baby. She meanwhile remembered her sister’s two children home in Winnipeg and missed them sharply. “How about I give you another nickel,” she said to the girls, “and you can take Frankie home. I think she’s getting tired.” Lucille thought some more. “And I’ll give you a quarter if you fetch me a newspaper.” The two girls gasped together in disbelief at their good fortune. They hurried away, pushing the baby carriage in front of them at breakneck speed.
Lucille scolded herself for handing out her coins so freely. But the girls were poor, and with the coal mine in Frank still closed, money in their house must be tight. She looked up again at Turtle Mountain. The local Indians called it “Mountain That Walks” and never camped around it; the white men had laughed at the superstitious heathen until the slide. Now many feared that the rest of Turtle Mountain would come crashing down at any time. As a newspaper reporter herself, Lucille believed the danger was exaggerated. The broad base of the mountain and its concave summit looked as solid as Everest, for the moment.
The two girls returned. They thrust a copy of the Frank Sentinel into Lucille’s hands. She paid them just as the conductor in his blue uniform blew his whistle. “All aboard” the man called out, “for points west: Blairmore, Stony Point, Crowsnest...” Lucille climbed back aboard the coach. She sat down on the wooden seat and in a few minutes the train lurched forward. Soon, the pistons were pumping and the engine was chugging as the train left Frank behind.
The landscape of the Pass rolled by. In the background the jagged summits of the mountains sat under the blue sky. White streaks of snow ran down the crevices at their tops. Below these rounded hills sat covered with forests of stubby green pine trees. The Oldman River wound its way through the valley, first on one side of the train tracks, then on the other. To Lucille the river looked like a skinny creek, but she was used to the Red and the Assiniboine in Winnipeg. But the mountains were certainly impressive.
She turned away from the window and looked around the crowded coach. Immigrants on their way to their homesteads filled the seats. In front of Lucille sat two broad-shouldered men who wore sorochky and bushy black beards. They spoke to each other in Ukrainian. Next to her an elderly Italian woman fanned herself and her squalling grandchild on her lap with a paper fan. All of the immigrants fingered their leaflets. These praised Canada as the “Granary of the World” in a variety of languages, and had pictures of farmers with wheat crops towering above their heads as high as church steeples. They said nothing of snow, cold, drought, isolation, or grasshoppers. Lucille sighed to herself and shook her head.
She laid the Frank Sentinel in her lap for a moment and looked out the window at the mountains rolling past. She had only enough money to stay for two weeks. If she couldn’t find Stanley after that, the money her sister had given her would be gone, with nothing to show for it, and God knew Lottie had little to spare now. Her lawyer had offered to pay for a private detective but she had refused to take his money; Simpson already was representing her for free in her dispute with the life insurance company over Stanley’s policy. Lucille did have eight dollars of her own savings. Her only chance of increasing that sum was gambling with it. It was a crazy idea; in her imagination, she could just hear practical Lottie groaning. But she wouldn’t go back to Winnipeg a failure, and already she was certain she would need more than two weeks to find Stanley.
Presently she opened the Sentinel. Inside the paper was an advertisement for the Empire Hotel in Stony Point, which boasted that it was “the best two-dollar-a-day house in the North West Territory” with steam heat and electric lighting. With a grim expression, she tapped the advertisement with her thumb. Stanley had stayed at that hotel while he’d been in Stony Point. With no other place to start, her assignment for today would be to investigate the place. Someone there must have seen her brother-in-law. The paper also carried an ad for a boarding house, “the Pruitt house,” on First Street North in Stony Point. It cost four dollars a week with meals included. Lucille would stay there if the house allowed a single woman. If it didn’t, she would camp out at the train station or pitch a tent somewhere. She wasn’t going to leave that town without finding out what had happened to Stanley.
Lucille looked up. The train was slowing. Eagerly she looked out the window. Down the tracks another train station came into view, the same size as the one in Frank. The name “Stony Point” was painted in big white letters on the sloping roof. Two minutes later the train stopped, and the conductor strode through the coach calling out “Stony Point.” Lucille took a deep breath. She rolled up her newspaper and clutched her bag in her hand. Her mission had begun.

Stony Point features many elements that would make it a successful film or television series. It has a compelling plotline, as a woman goes in search of a beloved missing relative. Its lead character, Lucille Reilly, is stubborn, contentious, and disruptive. Drama boils over as she clashes with her enemy, the forceful, ruthless, and clever Henry Best. Although a historical novel, Stony Point tackles modern issues such as the rights of women and the working class. Its setting, in Alberta’s Crowsnest Pass, would give it a visual appeal in addition to its lively narrative. Women will enjoy the protagonist, Lucille Reilly. Men will enjoy the rich drama and action taking place in frontier Alberta. As a novel or television series, it would be certain to captivate a broad audience.

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