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Reviews

Georgia Straight Review, January 18, 2001
With The Judas Hills, Peter Trower finishes what heís calling the Terry Belshaw trilogy. The three novels, set in the 1950s in backcountry logging shows and on Vancouverís Skid Road, chronicle several eventful years in the life of Belshaw, part-time logger, former roaring boy, and aspiring writer.

In Groganís Cafť (1993), Belshaw heads for the camps after things heat up too much for him and his zoot-suit pals in the big smoke. He returns to Vancouver in Dead Manís Ticket (1996) and tumbles into the cityís heroin scene, which dogs him back into the woods.

Trower is in fine form this time around, nailing the specifics of the era. A wiser Belshaw ships out with a shoestring outfit to a remote show; heís there to make a stake so he can buy a suit for his brotherís wedding, but mysterious coincidences complicate this simple plan.

The Judas Hills is an accomplished piece of historical fiction. The plot is episodic, each chapter driven by a basically freestanding adventure. Colourful, morally unambiguous secondary characters play off the carefully detailed scenery and provide fodder for the necessary violence.

Dialect and jargon flow: "That brainless ginkís no partner of mine! Worked with him a time or two, but heís dumber than a gunnysack full of choker knobs!" Various tricks advance the plot. After Belshaw discovers a cache of long-lost love letters, he sends a Vancouver friend on a research mission, which turns up another long-lost record, a diary excerpted at length.

The novel is also a neat convergence of form and content, a eulogy for the old hardscrabble logging life, told in the no-nonsense, detail-rich style of working-class realism that has also largely passed into history. For British Columbians who remember these legacies, and for those who never knew, The Judas Hills should be required reading.

-John Burns, The Georgia Straight