Robert J. C. Stead
The Bail Jumper

The Bail Jumper is now a tough book to locate but it's well worth the search. While the title conjures up the stereotyped old-west image of lawlessness and inadequate law enforcement, The Bail Jumper in fact offers a thoughtful view of pre-war western experience.

On leaving the farm for the greener town pastures of Plainville, young Ray Burton obtains work in Gardiner's General Store until social entanglements place him in jeopardy of false imprisonment. From there, the plot takes us into the still developing west where the lure of free homesteads in a "fair and just" land propels the government's immigration machine.

Of particular note are unusual chapter prefaces which in each case consist of relevant passages from Stead poems published earlier in Prairie Born and The Empire Builders (1908 1st edition). While this begs the question of whether Stead's plot development was informed by these poetry selections, the reader finds them apt and is powerfully reminded of the motifs which underlie much of Stead's writing.