RARA-AVIS: Re: The OTHER Indian Cops (B.H. - Before Hillerman)

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 17 Apr 2004

Jim wrote:

>In keeping with this months's theme, it's worth noting
>that the two things Tony Hillerman is most noted for
>are his very effective use of Navajo culture and
>traditions in his police procedurals, AND the
>extraordinarily effective use of his rural
>Southwestern settings....
> Hillerman, however, was not the first to use American
>Indian cops in a Southwestern setting. Here are a few
>of the others.

And don't forget the notorious Johnny Canuck, the "well-known private investigator." His turf seems to be the Midwest, not the Southwest, but this turkey's too bad to let pass unnoticed.

Over the years, Canadians have in turn been greatly bemused and painfully embarrassed at the American media's distorted and generally cock-eyed view of our country (Hell,comedian Rick Mercer's made a whole career out of it), but this one's so bad it's painful, or at least painfully funny.

The JOHNNY CANUCK series by James Moffat makes those sappy Nelson Eddy/Jeanette MacDonald/Renfrew of the Northwest Mounted movies look like hard-hitting CBC documentaries. The only solace we poor misunderstood Canadians have here is that that , despite the finger-pointing monicker, this dick is apparently all-American.

Get this:

"JOHNNY CANUCK's hot blood is one quarter Sioux Indian, going back to his grandfather, who had fought with Sitting Bull at the Big Horn. Because he liked the white Canadians, he changed his name to John Canuck -- the usual name for a Canadian. His son kept the name, and so did Johnny...a tough resourceful private eye who gets results where others have failed... especially with women."

That's just from the preface. And it only gets better (or worse, depending on your point of view.) In Blue Line Murder, for example, Johnny is hired by the Lakeview Otters, a professional hockey team
(granted, the name's no more ridiculous than The Mighty Ducks), to investigate the murder of their star defenseman, Tex "Cowboy" Brandt
(Tex is evidently his real name, but "Cowboy" is a nickname). But wouldn't you know it? Soon Johnny's up to his one quarter Sioux Indian neck in neo-Fascists from the American Freedom Front Party.

Johnny appeared in eight paperback originals for Compact in the mid-sixties, and each one's an alternative classic, 100 per cent American cheese.

Which, of course, begs the question: who was this guy Moffat? evidently wrote under a slew of pseudonyms (including Hank Janson), but what planet was he from?


Kevin Burton Smith The Thrilling Detective Web Site/CrimeSeen TV/Movie Poll http://www.thrillingdetective.com
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