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Brief Reviews
by George Kaufman

JOHNNY SCHNARR uses the word "lucky" in describing the many adventures of his colourful life, and he certainly did have more than his share of good fortune along the way. But it was more than luck that made Schnarr the kind of character who can keep us interested in his life story, related in Rumrunner, the Life and Times of Johnny Schnarr (Orca, 224 pages, $14.95 paper). As told through recollections taped by his niece, Marion Parker, and the writer Robert Tyrrell, Schnarr`s life story seems a Hemingway plot come to life. There`s a kind of gee-whiz tone to the narrative that occasionally becomes irritating, but by the end of the book we`re convinced we`re hearing the story of our century through the genuine voice of Schnarr himself. Schnarr`s tuck got him through logging and the First World War, in which, he relates in a poignant passage, his life was spared when the cease-fire was called minutes before his company was set to cross a foggy field defended by heavily armed German troops. But Schnarr`s real story begins when he returns to the American northwest and starts a wild career in rum-running that spans the Prohibition years. In his 12 years of evading US and Canadian law agents, he became their number one irritant. The crafty rumrunner was fearless, sailing to destinations all along the northwest coast, and in all kinds of conditions. He had the skill, the luck, and the fast boats to wind up with $ 10,000 in the bank in 1933, which staked him to a successful ocean-fishing career. A gentleman himself, he always expected honour, even among thieves, and was greatly upset when a partner deceived him over payment from one of his "customers" down the coast. Schnarr`s adventures and misadventures make for fascinating reading, and provide an illuminating mini-history lesson in the oral tradition.

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