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Winner of the 2020 RBC Taylor Prize • As seen on Global News-TV’S The Morning Show
Murderer. Salesman. Pirate. Adventurer. Cannibal. Co-founder of the Hudson’s Bay Company.
Known to some as the first European to explore the upper Mississippi, and widely as the namesake of ships and hotel chains, Pierre-Esprit Radisson is perhaps best described, writes Mark Bourrie, as “an eager hustler with no known scruples.” Kidnapped by Mohawk warriors at the age of fifteen, Radisson assimilated and was adopted by a powerful family, only to escape to New York City after less than a year. After being recaptured, he defected from a raiding party to the Dutch and crossed the Atlantic to Holland—thus beginning a lifetime of seized opportunities and frustrated ambitions.
A guest among First Nations communities, French fur traders, and royal courts; witness to London’s Great Plague and Great Fire; and unwitting agent of the Jesuits’ corporate espionage, Radisson double-crossed the English, French, Dutch, and his adoptive Mohawk family alike, found himself marooned by pirates in Spain, and lived through shipwreck on the reefs of Venezuela. His most lasting venture as an Arctic fur trader led to the founding of the Hudson’s Bay Company, which operates today, 350 years later, as North America’s oldest corporation.
Sourced from Radisson’s journals, which are the best first-hand accounts of 17th century Canada, Bush Runner tells the extraordinary true story of this protean 17th-century figure, a man more trading partner than colonizer, a peddler of goods and not worldview—and with it offers a fresh perspective on the world in which he lived.
—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
“A dark adventure story that sweeps the reader through a world filled with surprises. The book is compelling, authoritative, not a little disturbing — and a significant contribution to the history of 17th-century North America.”
—Ken McGoogan, The Globe and Mail
“A remarkable biography of an even more remarkable 17th-century individual … Beautifully written and endlessly thought-provoking.”
“It is the theme of survival that dominates Radisson’s life and is the beating heart of Mark Bourrie’s biography, Bush Runner: The Adventures of Pierre-Esprit Radisson … A journalist and historian, Bourrie recognizes a good story when he sees one … In his hands, the life of Radisson plays out like some kind of early Canadian tragi-comedy … Masterful.”
“A fascinating, funny, at times very gruesome and violent, but nevertheless wildly entertaining story.”
—Becky Toyne, CBC Day 6
“Mark Bourrie beautifully describes Radisson as the ‘Forrest Gump of his time’…well-written…compelling.”
“Highly entertaining reading…fascinating…an engaging achievement.”
—The Winnipeg Free Press
“Bourrie’s writing is grounded in a strong sense of place, partly because of his own extensive knowledge of the land and partly because of Radisson’s descriptive storytelling abilities…offering a valuable and rare glimpse into 17th-century North America.”
“Mark Bourrie has written a classic Canadian historical biography … He weaves a compelling, sometimes lurid, but always enlightening narrative of the legendary adventurer, scoundrel, Pierre-Esprit Radisson.”
—The Miramichi Reader
“The writing is lively, the descriptions of 17th century Indigenous life are cinematic and, despite Radisson’s many personal flaws, it is easy to admire his chutzpah.”
“If you’re one of the many people who think that Canadian history is boring, this book may change your mind.”
—Barb Minett, The Bookshelf (Guelph, ON)
“Truly a rollicking good read.”
“Some readers may already have had an introduction to Pierre-Esprit Radisson and his partner, the much older Medard Chouart de Groseilliers (radishes and gooseberries). This book places both in context with their time and ambitions. Find your own copy and fill in your knowledge of one of Canada’s greatest explorers.”
—Owen Sound Sun Times
Praise for Mark Bourrie
“Rather than employing clash-of-civilizations rhetoric, Bourrie shows himself a curious and eclectic writer unafraid to raise difficult questions about propaganda, war porn, and the still-evolving nature of a wired world. His historical overview of the waves of urban violence afflicting North America and Europe in the past 150 years undermines the idea that ours is an age without precedent.”
—Quill and Quire review of The Killing Game
“People are either going to love this book or hate it. Me, I loved it. Stephen Harper may not like it quite so much but he would do well to heed it. Sometimes the more people know about what you’re doing and how you’re spending their money can make them like you more. Or not. That’s the gamble you take in the free world. A lot has been happening in Ottawa for years now, but because the killing of the messenger has been so quiet, insidious and effective, few of us even know about it.”
—Toronto Star review of Kill the Messengers
“As the first journalist with unfettered access to Canada’s press censor files, author Mark Bourrie tells what Canadians knew and did not know during the Second World War — and reveals the unpleasant political realities of a war so often portrayed as a unanimous moral crusade against evil.”
—National Post review of The Fog of War