WHITE, Stewart Edward

Author Tags: 1900-1950, Fiction

“Adventure always come to one who goes forth with the spirit of adventure within him." -- Steward Edward White

Steward Edward White was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan on March 12, 1883. He was educated at University of Michigan and Columbia University. He married in 1904 and resided mostly in California. As a journalist he made several forays up the West Coast before turning to producing books for a living. He was a veritable Tony Robbins of his day, concerning with motivating others with rhetoric. "Do not attempt to do a thing unless you are sure of yourself; but do not relinquish it simply because someone else is not sure of you." The urbane characters in his two comic adventure novels that begin in Vancouver suggest he was an unusually philosophical and sophisticated personality.

In Skookum Chuck (1925) the reader meets Roger Marshall, a handsome and aloof middle-aged American who is inexplicably stricken with a profound indifference to life. In Vancouver he visits a “healer of souls” named X. Anaxagoras who strikes an odd bargain with him. The healer will charge no fee if he can cure Marshall’s apathy towards life, but will charge ten thousand dollars if he fails at the task. They take a cabin cruiser called Spindrift at midnight from Coal Harbour and, accompanied by the healer’s acerbic sister Betsy, encounter bootlegging, intrigue, pirateering, a potlatch ceremony in the Queen Charlottes and other unforeseen adventures. Marshall regains his appetite for life.

The sequel to Skookum Chuck is Secret Harbour (1926). Marshall and Betsy are married and living on the Spindrift moored at the Vancouver Yacht Club. Anaxagoras returns as the cryptic-altruistic-con-artist-cum-physic-healer-of-souls-and-psychologist-oracle. He persuades Marshall he’s too perfect, too safe, too dull, too much of a prisoner of The Proper Thing aboard his luxury yacht. Tossing overboard all nautical discipline and propriety, the cast of the Sprindrift kidnap two greedy characters named Fleshpots and Eat’s-em-alive. Anaxagoras successfully claim-jumps a gold mine. “An adventure is always a release," White writes. "It makes fluid that has solidified into rigidity. It permits infiltration...We sail our surface seas of life, but only rarely are we forming for future nobler races.”

White's stories are mainly about the American west. The Claim Jumpers (1901) and The Blazed Trail (1902) reflect his experiences in the Black Hills gold rush and logging camp in Michigan. Gold (1913), The Gray Dawn (1915) and The Rose Dawn (1920) comprise a trilogy of historical novels. He wrote books for children as well as autobiographical accounts such as Dog Days (1930) and Speaking for Myself (1943). His books have titles such as The Blazed Trail, The Land of Footprints, The Riverman, The Mountains, Arizona Nights and The Long Rifle. He died in 1946.

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2003] "Fiction" "1900-1950"