“I’ve been collecting Royal Canadian Mounted Police literature for more than fifty years.” Al Lund, Staff Sergeant, RCMP (retired)
In his chapter called “Dust Jackets” in MOUNTIES ON THE COVER, Al Lund writes of a practice that, as an avid collector of old Canadian wilderness books myself, I’d never heard of. “It was quite common for public libraries in earlier years to destroy or discard the dust jackets when they obtained a new book.” This was before Mylar plastic sleeves.
Al had learned of the practice when he wondered how a Minnesotan book collector had come into “hundreds of dust jackets in pristine and new condition.” He learned that they had come from a man whose job it had been to discard those brightly coloured jackets from newly arrived library books.
If you’re a collector of old books, then I know how you feel: dismayed at the thought of all those dust jackets being thrown away — excited by the hope of possible treasure troves of such book jackets out there, waiting to be rescued.
I’ve mentioned elsewhere how, as a boy in the 1950’s, I came into a number of old books. Grown-ups — neighbours and family — hearing how young Brian loved the old regional writers of wilderness and animal stories, would hand me beloved hardcover books of their own. Writers like Charles G D Roberts and Grey Owl and Jack London and George Marsh, who I’d already met in the dusty school library. And some I’d never heard of, like H A Cody, James Oliver Curwood, William Byron Mowery and James B Hendryx. 
Those hardcover books often had faded spines and covers, red, blue, green, brown, that were sometimes a bit loose. I didn’t, of course, know then that most of those books had once had brightly illustrated jackets. At that time, it didn’t matter. Opening up those covers was a trip to a Canada lost in time… And as real as the wild woodlands outside my own back door. 
And a lot of those old-time thrilling tales told of our own Canadian Mounted Police.
It was 1967, Canada’s Centennial Year. A young Mountie walked into a second-hand bookstore in Burnaby, British Columbia, his new posting. Alert Henry Lund, known as Al, had been a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for seven years. He loved it. And on that March day of ’67, Al Lund would find another love — collecting old books with a Mountie theme.
Soon he was “becoming obsessed with collecting and began to visit all the second-hand bookstores…”
By 2008, now retired, Al had collected over 9000 Mountie-related items, especially hard cover and paperback books, numerous magazines, digests and comic books.
Over the past few years Al has donated his full collection to the University of Alberta Libraries, to be safely archived. “I’m just so pleased that it’s protected, and it becomes a research item for people for generations to come.”
And now a selection of hand-picked books from that amazing collection sit on display in the university, part of the Bruce Peel Special Collection, along with the historic Sir Samuel Steele Collection.
Of those books on display, almost 100 of them have been assembled in MOUNTIES ON THE COVER, an exhibition catalogue and quality trade paperback from the University of Alberta Press.
MOUNTIES ON THE COVER starts with an excellent 15-page Foreword by Dr Peter German, RCMP Deputy Commissioner (retired). Illustrated with period photographs and line drawings (many by Roger Pocock, an early Mountie who would write and illustrate his own books), Peter outlines our proud Mounted Police history and the part our Mounties once played in books, films and other popular entertainment media. 
And then Al Lund takes us on a guided tour through this sample of his collection.
You’ll see Mounties in bright scarlet tunics on every cover known to the print medium. Hardcover book jackets illustrating top writers like Zane Grey, L Ron Hubbard, Harwood Steele and — a man Al has called “one of the great Mountie writers of all times” — James B Hendryx (I agree). Paperback novels, including Harlequin romances. Popular magazines like Canadian Home Journal and Saturday Evening Post. Pulp magazine covers of Adventure, Argosy, North-West Stories and Western Stories Magazine. Beloved comic book characters Sergeant Preston, King of the Royal Mounted and Dudley Do-Right. Did you know that Donald Duck once joined the Force?
Besides the many American — especially American — and Canadian publications, Al also shows us covers from England and even France.
There was a time when cover images like these stirred excitement and national pride in Canadian hearts. And, you know what? For me, they still do.
Getting to know Al Lund has been a pleasure.
With the news coverage the Force has been getting lately, many of the good men and women who have served with our Mounted Police seem to have been forgotten in the heated kerfuffle. I’m not talking about the Historic Mounties who are our cultural heroes — Sam Steele, James MacLeod, Major Walsh, Constable William Pedley. I mean the regular Members we Canadians have met over the years; sometimes briefly, sometimes to have a yarn. One Member I have called a friend: a Good Man in every sense.
Sgt Lund’s strong connection and pride for his RCMP shows in this book. A labour of love.
Of course, the heyday of the Mythic Mountie is gone. I didn’t know even as a boy just how BIG the Mounties had once been in Canadian and World mythic culture.
By the mid-Fifties, when I was coming into those old books, the Mythic Age was closing. Yes, I had Dell Comics’ Sergeant Preston and King of the Royal Mounted — which are now lost after a number of moves as a kid — along with most of my favourite George Marsh titles. Others, however survived, and form the core of a slowly growing collection (Retirement hath its rewards).
Back then, occasional old Hollywood “Northerns” were still shown on our new black and white TV (even now, I never miss THE WILD NORTH, which I discovered later with delight was actually filmed in colour!). But by that time most of my friends, fellow young Boomers, were more interested in Davy Crockett and Superman and Captain America than anything Canadian. I tried to tell them. But they had never read Jack O’Brien’s SILVER CHIEF: Dog of the North and experienced Sgt Jim Thorne’s thrilling capture of the savage wolf dog. Or read Curwood’s GRIZZLY KING. Or listened to my favourite old companion, Archie Grey Owl. Or even the Sergeant Preston comics.
I didn’t have the words or understanding then to tell my doubting friends that Canada is a young Wilderness Nation — our Myths came out of that vast, green Wilderness. And those Myths are OURS! Who We Are. 
At this moment, when we so proudly celebrate Canada Day — CANADA150 — our Nation’s — our CULTURE’s — 150th birthday, it’s just great to be reminded of our own legendary heroes. And their stories.
MOUNTIES ON THE COVER, by Staff Sergeant (retired) Alert Henry Lund of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, is an essential addition to every true patriot’s book shelf. Or coffee table.
– Brian Alan Burhoe
Did you like this Mountie Book Review?
IF SO, YOU’VE GOT TO SEE “THE WRITERS OF THE NORTH-WEST MOUNTED POLICE” — MY MOST POPULAR LITERARY HISTORY POST:
“Thanks for a wonderful in-depth article on Mountie fiction. I’m a big fan of the Mounties and I really enjoyed the amount of details you provided and found many, many more books to put on my wish list.” Jack
“I just discovered your blog recently and need to dig deeper into it. That post on Mountie fiction is great.” James Reasoner
When our Canadian Mounted Police first arrived in the lawless North-West Territories, they soon entered our National Mythology. A look at the many writers, such as James B Hendryx, who helped create that magnificent Mythology. Amply illustrated with glorious book and magazine covers. FREE TO READ ==> The GREATEST AUTHORS OF NORTH-WEST MOUNTED POLICE FICTION
 Canadian writer Charles G D Roberts was my first literary hero. For an example of his once-popular story-telling, SEE The Bear That Thought He Was A Dog.
Now mostly forgotten, George Marsh, author of wilderness stories like FLASH THE LEAD DOG, once had an avid following. SEE Wolf Whelps & Lead Dogs: Tribute to George Marsh, Wilderness Writer.
 But those old books often had illustrations inside. Sometimes photos — stills from long-ago Silent Movies; more often paintings or line drawings from some of the top artists of the time. American Charles Livingston Bull was my favourite wildlife artist. He illustrated Charles G D Roberts, Jack London, Frank Baum, Edgar Rice Burroughs, George Marsh, among others — SEE Charles Livingston Bull, Wildlife Artist.
A more recent discovery of mine has been accomplished illustrator Stephen Voorhies, who illustrated three editions of William Byron Mowery’s Mountie fiction. SEE Stephen J Voorhies: Artist of the American People — and Places.
 Here’s one impression upon reading this book I just can’t help sharing…
If you look at the photographs and pen & ink drawings of the real-life men of the early North-West Mounted (such as those in Dr German’s Foreword to MOUNTIES ON THE COVER), you’ll notice that most of the younger Mounties wore mustaches. Photos from the Klondike Gold Rush era make it seem that mustaches were regulation issue for the men, with beards for the senior officers.
Yet you’ll note that the Mounties in most (thousands of ’em!) of the Canadian and American book and magazine covers went clean shaven.
Three exceptions appear in MOUNTIES ON THE COVER: historic Commissioner James MacLeod in full beard; Sergeant Preston, of course, with his pencil mustache — and a 1928 MacLean’s Magazine “Canadian Life Series” illustration by Montreal painter A C Valentine of a Mountie with a fierce bushy soup strainer. And there’s a photo of our genial host, Al Lund, with a neatly trimmed one. Otherwise: Why this decades-long artists’ prejudice against an honest mo?
 “our Myths came out of that vast, green Wilderness…” While the works and words of Charles G D Roberts, Grey Owl and E Pauline Johnson had enthralled me, I was still three or four years from being given my first copy of Ella Elizabeth Clark’s INDIAN LEGENDS OF CANADA — and our Centennial Year was over a decade away when Gordon Lightfoot would finally put it all together for me: “There was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run, when the wild majestic mountains stood alone against the sun. Long before the white man and long before the wheel — when the green dark forest was too silent to be real…”
MOUNTIES ON THE COVER By Al Lund – A Canadian Book Review
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