Yorkton author Elmer McInnes has a new book on the shelves, this one; Walter T. Ross: Lawman and Conman, drawing on local area history.
"The story first came to my attention as a child listening to the tales of my grandmother concerning her and her family's dealings with Walter T. Ross at their home in Wandsworth, England, a suburb of London," said McInnes. "She had stories of his residence and arrest at their home. She had vague rumours of his having been a former RNWMP officer, a past prison term, and a fake oil well."
That was the seed which took root for McInnes, one which as an author he could not ignore, and eventually it became a book years later.
"After hearing these stories throughout my childhood I eventually developed a burning obsession to research Walter Ross and learn all I could about his life as a RNWMP office and his later life outside the law. Finally, in my early twenties I decided to make a major effort to put the whole story together," he said.
As he began to research the book he found a compelling story with many twists and turns.
"In my research I discovered that, indeed, he had served in the RNWMP at Yorkton in 1907," he said. "After a checkered career and an undignified dismissal following various unsavory episodes he drifted to the other side of the law, thus his attempt to escape Canadian authorities by fleeing to England and his eventual arrest at the home of my Great-grandparents.
"After his eventual return to Canada and a term in the Prince Albert penitentiary he established a ranch in Montana before going on to, perhaps, his most notorious exploit. He suddenly returns to the Yorkton area in the 1920's and supposedly discovers the first oil well in the history of Manitoba at Grandview.
"In actuality it proved to be possibly one of the biggest hoaxes in the history of Western Canada. Inter-mixed in the whole mélange is the inside story of the man's family life, his dealings with his wife's family and, as I briefly discuss in the book, how me and my family's life were so greatly influenced by this complex character."
McInnes said his grandmother actually played an integral role in his love of history which would eventually grow into his interest in writing.
"Through her stories (Grandmother Lily McInnes) of Ross, as well as other tales of historical nature, I gained an appreciation for history and, in the case of Ross, a burning desire to find out just who he was and found I had a love for the hunt and historical research," he said.
"I soon developed a passion for the history of gunfighters, outlaws and lawmen of the old west. I became a voracious reader in the subject, which I still am, and finally decided I wished to try my own hand at researching and writing various subjects.
"Since then I have had a number of articles published in such magazines as True West, Old West, the Journal of the Wild West History Association and various other periodicals.
"I have also written three books of true historical subjects, Gamblers and Gunmen Along the Northern Pacific Railroad dealing with the characters who followed the building of the Northern Pacific Railroad from Duluth, Minnesota to Bismarck, North Dakota in the 1870's; Bud Ballew: Legendary Oklahoma Lawman, A biography of an Oklahoma Deputy Sheriff and gunman who lived in the early 1900's; and now my third book, Walter T. Ross: Lawman and Conman.
The latest book has been something McInnes has pursued for years, actually decades.
"This project has been an on again, off again, task stretching over the course of the last 30-years or so," he said. "I would do some research, a bit of writing, put it aside to work on other projects, then go back to it time and again. I wanted to be doubly sure I had all the facts I could accumulate before actually setting it to paper."
Since much of Ross' story took place in Canada much of McInnes' research was closer to home than with his previous books.
In some ways that made the process easier, and in others more difficult, said the author.
"It proved easier and more difficult both in the matter of locations. Most of the story having taken place in my own home area and western Manitoba made research much less consuming in time, energy and the pocket book," said McInnes. "On the other hand, other aspects of the story needed to be researched in Britain, Australia and the U. S. which, through distances if nothing else, made the search that much more difficult.
"Another difficulty proved to be some people's reticence in revealing some information they may have been privy to. Some interviews proved to be a most delicate procedure.
"Canada being such a young country comparatively speaking also sometimes caused difficulties in the lack of some records even from a relatively recent point in time of the 1920's, the record keeping of the time, in some cases, not having developed to its optimum."
Being a Canadian story did help the story get into print as Smoke Ridge Books in Calgary was immediately interested, said McInnes.
So how does the latest book rate in the author's mind?
"I think all my books have been my favorite at the time of publication," he said. "The first, Gamblers and Gunmen, simply because it was the first.
"The second, Bud Ballew, because of the fact of it having been picked up by a major U. S. publisher, Globe Pequot.
"Walter T. Ross, however, is definitely very special due to it being close to home, both location wise and family."
McInnes said he likes the result of his long quest for the story.
"At the present time I am greatly satisfied with the finished product," he said.
"However, as almost always happens with a project like this, once the book has been out there for a while I expect someone to come along with a collection of rare photographs, or that defining document that would have changed the whole outlook of the book."
While the Ross book is just hot off the press McInnes is already working on new projects.
"I am now drifting back to my all abiding passion, the history of gunmen, outlaws and lawmen of the old west," he said. "I am currently working on a multi volume series of stories on the gunfighters of the state of Nevada. I also have much material on gunmen of various U. S. states such as Oklahoma, Oregon, Kansas, Utah and Missouri which I hope to turn into future books."
McInnes will be doing a book signing of Walter T. Ross: Lawman and Conman at Cole's Book Store in the Parkland Mall in the city Saturday Oct. 13, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and another book signing at the Yorkton Public Library Saturday Oct. 27, from 2-5 p.m..
The book is available from the author by emailing elmer.d.mcin...@gmail.com or the publisher www.smokeridgebooks.ca and amazon.ca.
"I am also on Facebook where people can check out my daily musings concerning the book," he said.