In 1907, the fifteen-year-old French-Canadian Ernest Dufault left his home in Quebec for Montana, where he was promptly arrested as a cattle thief and, as a prisoner of the state of Nevada, passed himself off as an American cowboy named Will James. Over the next few decades, Dufault, a.k.a. James, would flourish as a cowboy and horsebreaker and go on to become an artist, a soldier, a Hollywood stuntman, a bestselling author of award-winning westerns — and his own false memoir. The Quebecer was so successful a pretender that he was later inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners, and his estranged wife, Alice Conradt, would only learn his true identity when, at the age of fifty, Will James died an alcoholic and left his estate to a man she had never heard of: one Ernest Dufault.
In Benediction, Olivier Dufault recreates the true story of his distant relative Ernest’s incarceration in a Nevada prison for rustling cattle and his subsequent reinvention of himself as “Will James.” Relying on authentic historical materials including letters, telegrams, and court documents as much as his own imagination, Olivier Dufault’s magnificent novel is a posthumous benediction of an exceptional American life in which truth and lies walk side by side.
OLIVIER DUFAULT grew up in Acton Vale, Quebec, where he was raised on the stories of his distant cousin’s exploits in the American West. Benediction is his first novel. He lives in Montreal.
PABLO STRAUSS grew up in Victoria, British Columbia, and has lived in Quebec City for a decade. His translation of Daniel Grenier’s The Longest Year was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Translation.
PRAISE FOR OLIVIER DUFAULT AND BENEDICTION
Longlisted, Prix France-Québec
“A breathtaking novel evoking the great desert spaces of the American West.” — Journal de Québec
“The majesty and the trials of the territory are magnified as much by the language and precision of its author as by the confinement of its hero.” — Le Devoir
“Written with grace and intelligence . . . The work thorough; the details conscientious; the writing is patient, sculpted, and refined . . . A novel dense, rich, and altogether surprising in its evocation of scenes from a century ago.” — La Presse