In a political thriller combining American politics, resource extraction, Aboriginal law and the story-filled expanse of the Chilcotin, author Bruce Fraser weaves a fictional tale reflective of not only our own communities, but also of the larger and changing world in which we live.
In Noah’s Raven Fraser tells the story of Fred Scully, a newly minted journalist from Atlanta who stumbles onto a political scandal when he overhears Republican candidate Billy Joe Northrup, a Trumpian character and oil man, discussing natural gas reserves he’s found in the Chilcotin with Bull O’Connor a Steve Bannon-esque figure.
In the meantime, Noah Hanlon, a Tsilhqot’in man living near Tatlayoko Lake, must overcome personal tragedy to protect the land he loves.
“It’s a David and Goliath story,” says Fraser.
Fraser, a Vancouver author, who also owns a small ranch property in Lac la Hache, says the Chilcotin has drawn him since he first explored the area when he was part of a survey crew planning for a dam on the Homathko River.
Later in his life, as a lawyer, Fraser returned to the area, practising Aboriginal law, both in personal and constitutional cases. When he retired from law 10 years ago, Fraser changed his focus to writing.
“The Chilcotin is an interesting part of B.C. and Canada because it’s a well-defined area. It’s bordered by mountains on three sides and the Fraser River on the fourth, and [the Tsilqot’in] maintained their independence for the longest time, including fighting a war against the survey crews that went through their territories,” says Fraser.
Noah’s Raven is Fraser’s third book in the Chilcotin Trilogy, encompassing On Potato Mountain and The Jade Frog, but each book stands individually.
“In each one of my books, there is an antagonist from outside who comes to the Chilcotin to really use it and abuse it.”
Indigenous and non-Indigenous characters are shaped by the Chilcotin, a character in itself.
Noah’s Raven, which Fraser calls both his most ambitious and best book of the series, follows that same path.
In it, Noah and Fred and the Tsilhqot’in are “pitted against the biggest and most powerful empire the world has ever seen — the United States of America.”
Fraser draws heavily on his law background and his work with First Nations, to colour his books.
“They have a marvellous way of describing and storytelling and this I find fascinating, and a certain marvellous calmness and presence,” he says.
“They have persevered for so long and held onto their values and it’s an absolutely amazing thing, so I respect them and I want to give them a voice too.”
Fraser says he is inspired by First Nation creation myths where land is personified.
“The Chilcotin is a character in my books,” he says.
“What I am trying to do is make the land speak and mostly through the First Nations, but also through the whites that live there. The land shapes these people.”
Each book follows a legal case, both personal and substantial, that delves deeply into law and how it affects First Nations, he says.
In Noah’s Raven the further into the book the reader delves, the more the characters and story grip the attention, as the plot moves at a stunning pace.
“I had a lot of fun writing this,” says Fraser.
Fraser will also be donating 10 per cent of the proceeds and author royalties to wildfire recovery and preparedness in the Cariboo-Chilcotin.
He himself was caught under an evacuation order at his place at Lac la Hache and chose to stay until he ran low on food.
The reason for donating is simple, he says.
“Because I’ve got friends up there and whatever help I can, I will give it.”
In the meantime, Fraser will be doing a book signing at the Open Book in Williams Lake on Wednesday, Oct. 25 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and an author talk at the Williams Lake Library from 6 to 8 p.m.
“I think that I have tried to present our region honestly and truthfully as best I can, as representative of who we are,” he says.
He adds that he hopes he has succeeded.