True Crime, True North: The Golden Age of Canadian Pulp Magazines


110 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Bibliography
ISBN 1-55192-689-X
DDC 364.971'05





Reviewed by Sarah Robertson

Sarah Robertson is the editor of the Canadian Book Review Annual.


Carolyn Strange, a professor of criminal justice history at the
University of Toronto, and Tina Loo, a professor of Canadian history at
the University of British Columbia, have a keen interest in the
connections between crime and popular history. They have parlayed that
interest into this engaging history of Canada’s pulp magazine
industry, which flourished during the 1940s, thanks in large part to a
federal act that banned the importation of American and British pulps.

In addition to formulaic narratives, Canadian pulps featured characters
who were walking racial, ethnic, and gender stereotypes, from passionate
French Canadians, to fickle women, to greedy Americans, to heroic lawmen
(particularly “those archetypal Canadian good guys, the Mounties”).
Philip Godsell, a prolific writer whose stories were routinely vetted by
the image-conscious Mounties, characterized the Inuit of the western
Arctic as a “motley horde of Mongol-faced humanity,” some of whom
would “cut your throat for a box of cartridges.”

The pulps’ titillating ads, lurid covers, and sensational story
titles belied the moralizing, prudish text. “In the black-and-white
world of Canadian true crime,” the authors note, “readers
encountered the message that law and order would always prevail, and
that justice would ultimately triumph.” The equally sacrosanct social
order was rigidly maintained in stories that concluded with the downfall
of “‘would-be big shots’ who had reckoned they could steal and
cheat their way out of poverty.”

Strange and Loo may be academics, but their prose is refreshingly
informal and jargon-free. Their book, which is packed with gloriously
kitschy period illustrations, is a must-have for nostalgia buffs and
historians of popular culture.


Strange, Carolyn, and Tina Loo., “True Crime, True North: The Golden Age of Canadian Pulp Magazines,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 16, 2024,