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Runaway Horses by Alfred Silver

Runaway Horses, A novel
By Alfred Silver

Did you know that in 1849, there was a Nova Scotia Pony Express?

Pony Express seems quite a silly name (although that was also the moniker for the Wild West’s famous horseback delivery service) as some of the province’s fittest and fastest horses were employed.

For approximately nine months, riders galloped the 144 miles from Halifax to Grandville Point (now called Victoria Beach), carrying news that arrived from England. They raced against the clock, and the rival Barnaby company, to arrive at the Bay of Fundy dock. From there a steam boat couriered the bulletins to Saint John, where they were telegraphed to the Associated Press in New York.

Alfred Silver’s Runaway Horses brings this little known historical gem to life as he invites readers to explore life in Annapolis Royal, Kentville, Windsor, Halifax and the communities in between, from over a century and a half ago. He also adds emotional depth to contemporaneous events like the Irish Potato Famine and the Mexican-American War, while fusing in cultural parallels, such as between the Gypsies of Western Europe and the regional Mi’kmaq population.

Some readers will be most engrossed with the bond formed between two teenagers who find refuge in the Halifax Express, and each other. Each bears a secret that, if found out, could cost them their jobs with the courier service, returning them to their troubled pasts.

Others will be absorbed by Silver’s trilling descriptions of the express riders modus operandi, such as, passing on their news satchels, in relay fashion, without slowing their horse’s speed or, at designated transfer sites, switching animals in mere seconds .

Runaway Horses’ alluring story makes it almost difficult not to read in one continuous run. But you will find it satisfying to pull on the reins from time to time and take in much of Silver’s personality and precision.

Silver wrote this historical novel from his rural Nova Scotia home where out his back window he can see remnants of the 1849 route. Rather than being simply “inspired by actual events,” it seems like Silver’s stimulating imagination has filled in the gaps where historical records are missing. ~ MB

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