Grove Press
Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press

A Good Man

by Guy Vanderhaeghe

“Vivid . . . A love story, a thriller, a Conradian meditation on courage and manhood, and a thoughtful examination of the origins of Canada’s tangled relationship with its big southern neighbor. . . . Vanderhaeghe has delivered an epic that matches its grand ambitions.” —Bob Armstrong, Winnipeg Free Press

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 480
  • Publication Date January 15, 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2080-9
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $18.00
  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Page Count 480
  • Publication Date January 03, 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2004-5
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $24.95

About The Book

Best-selling author Guy Vanderhaeghe’s final installment in his frontier trilogy is at once a riveting account of personal and historic revenge, and the endearing story of an unlikely love affair.

Wesley Case, a former soldier and the son of a Canadian lumber baron, sets out into the untamed borderlands between Canada and the United States to escape a dark secret from his past. He settles in Montana where he hopes to buy a cattle ranch, and where he begins work as a liaison between the American and Canadian militaries in an effort to contain the Native Americans’ unresolved anger in the wake of the Civil War. Amid the brutal violence that erupts between the Sioux warriors and U.S. forces, Case’s plan for a quiet ranch life is further compromised by an unexpected dilemma: he falls in love with the beautiful, outspoken, and recently widowed Ada Tarr. It’s a budding romance that soon inflames the jealousy of Ada’s quiet and deeply disturbed admirer, Michael Dunne. When the American government unleashes its final assault on the Indians, Dunne commences his own vicious plan for vengeance in one last feverish attempt to claim Ada as his own.

Vanderhaeghe expertly weaves a gritty account of the end of the Wild West with an intimate tale of love, retribution, and rebirth. Beautifully imagined and deeply moving, A Good Man is Vanderhaeghe’s triumphant conclusion to his venerated turn-of-the-century epic.

Tags Literary


A Good Man concludes a fantastic historical trilogy . . . If you’re looking for strapping historical fiction with morally complicated characters, hitch a ride here. . . . What makes A Good Man so captivating is the way Vanderhaeghe draws us through this complicated puzzle of international and racial conflicts while keeping his story grounded in the intimate lives of ordinary people. . . . A Good Man never loses its lightning and thunder. . . . For that broad storytelling magic that lets you sink into the past and the lives of rich characters, [Vanderhaeghe is] still one of the very best.” —Ron Charles, The Washington Post

“Superbly written and researched . . . Vanderhaeghe has just the right touch . . . [and] packs authenticity into every detail.” —Ellen Emry Heltzel, The Settle Times

“A brisk western . . . [about] the collision of lives on the harsh edge between the wild and the settled. . . . A cohesive high-stakes drama.” —Publishers Weekly

“Vanderhaeghe is often compared to Larry McMurtry, and rightfully so, for his muscular prose readily conveys not only the nuanced love story but also the rugged beauty of the western landscape and the chaotic battle scenes that haunt his protagonists.” —Joanne Wilkinson, Booklist

“Heartbreaking . . . Stunning . . . In its melding of character, plot, and history, A Good Man is an extraordinary novel, unquestionably the trilogy’s crowning achievement.” —Katherine A. Powers, Barnes and Noble Review

“[Vanderhaeghe is] the best all-round novelist at work in Canada today. . . A Good Man is the kind of impeccably crafted, Dickensian charmer we have come to expect from Vanderhaeghe. . . . Remarkable . . . Deeply satisfying . . . There are, characteristically, bountiful and varied pleasures to be had in A Good Man. . . . Vanderhaeghe’s descriptions of the natural world [are] often as striking as Cormac McCarthy’s. . . . A Good Man caps a towering achievement worthy of celebration as loud as our humble voices can declare.” —Andrew Pyper, The Globe and Mail

“Vivid . . . A love story, a thriller, a Conradian meditation on courage and manhood, and a thoughtful examination of the origins of Canada’s tangled relationship with its big southern neighbor. . . . Vanderhaeghe has delivered an epic that matches its grand ambitions.” —Bob Armstrong, Winnipeg Free Press

“A sprawling Western, in just the way that some of Cormac McCarthy’s novels are Westerns . . . Sharply observed and rich in period details . . . Utterly believable . . . Entertaining and thoroughly well-written . . . [A] satisfying novel.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A rollicking story as large as the prairie is wide . . . The story unfolds with consistent charm and erudition.” —Michael Bryson, Quill & Quire

“Part Western, part historical epic, part romantic melodrama and part crime novel . . . The descriptions of the cold, hard Prairie and the difficult life of its inhabitants are rendered with palpable longing for a bygone era.” —Tod Hoffman, Montreal Gazette

“Guy handles violence, or if you prefer ‘action,’ better than anyone in [Canada]. . . . This is a thoughtful book.” —Douglas Gibson, CBC Books

Praise for The Last Crossing:

“A terrific novel, big, complex, gripping . . . Catches the look and feel of the North American West with arresting precision and displays it freshly, as if no one had described it before . . . It is not too much to call Vanderhaeghe’s vast canvas magnificent.” —Los Angeles Times

“Juicy, tough, gruesome.” —Entertainment Weekly

“Assured and impassioned, brutal and tender . . . As always, Vanderhaeghe’s muscular prose is a pleasure to read.” —The Washington Post Book World

Praise for The Englishman’s Boy:

The Englishman’s Boy . . . [is] outstanding. . . . A complex, finely written story of deception, dreams, survival, and greed.” —The Denver Post

“Guy Vanderhaeghe is simply a wonderful writer. The Englishman’s Boy, spanning as it does two countries, two centuries, two views of story—the Canadian Wild West as ‘imagined’ by Hollywood—is a great accomplishment. Readers, I think, will find this book irresistible.” —Richard Ford


A Globe and Mail Top 100 Book of the Year
A National Post Best Book of the Year
Long-listed for the Scotiabank Giller Prize
Long-listed for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
A Canadian best seller


While sitting in the graveyard on the hill, surrounded by revenants and wraiths, moodily gouging the sandy soil with the toe of my boot, another ghostly presence intruded. I sensed a stirring, a flickering against the trees on the hillside to my right. It froze me on my boulder; I strained to make it out. A trembling cloud of midges, a vague form drifting out of the forest shadows, swimming into the meager moonlight, bit by bit knitting itself into a horse and rider.

A Sioux wolf, a scout? A horseshoe clinked against a stone and I knew then whoever the man was, he was white. Another fi ve-hundred-dollar-a-day dispatch rider bringing a warning from Fort Benton? Feeling my presence the horse halted. Its startled whinny roused the man dozing in the saddle. Peering blindly up into the darkness he called out, “Who’s there?”

There was a querulous confidence in his voice.

The cemetery hill shielded Fort Walsh from his view so he had no reason to assume he was addressing a white man. I shouted down to him, “No need for alarm! I am with the police!” and got to my feet to show myself.

There was no reply; he simply sat, gazing up at me, immobile as an equestrian statue planted in a town square. I took my candle, relit it, and held it aloft to reveal myself. The night so calm the flame stood up like an exclamation mark.

Reading Group Guide

by Susan Avery

1. What are the attributes of a “good man”? How do they guide the characters and events of this novel?

2. In the opening chapter Wesley Case, a constable in the Royal Mounted Police, is beginning a journal. “Both parents demanding I produce an account of my life. One, so I might find myself. The other, so I might find fame” (p. 17). How does this set the viewpoint for all that follows?

3. “When I was fourteen, I drew up two columns, entitled Greatest Weaknesses, Greatest Strengths. Under Greatest Weaknesses, I wrote, ‘I want too much.’ Under Greatest Strengths, I wrote ‘I want too much’” (p. 6). What do you learn about his mother from this statement and from the rest of the journal entry regarding her? What do you infer from what Wesley chooses to recall?

4. There are letters from Wesley’s father, Mr. Edwin Case, a prosperous lumber baron quoted here. What kind of man does he seem to be? What is the quality of their relationship? What do you begin to guess about Wesley’s nature?

5. The first chapter also briefly introduces Michael Dunne, one of the pivotal characters in the story. How does this meeting between Case and Dunne develop? What is your initial impression of Dunne? What are the ways that he is already entangled in the sequence of events? Wesley asks Dunne, “Do you pretend to know me?” (p. 16). Does he?

6. Each of the main characters’ stories are brought to light. This helps to understand them and their actions in the story. Would you describe this as a psychological novel? Real historical events are depicted on a grand scale. Is it an epic novel? It is full of adventure and action. Is it a Western?

7. The author not only uses the reference of the Battle of Little Big Horn to set the historical moment, but he sprinkles the narrative liberally with archaic language Give some examples of some of these words and phrases. How is language used to create setting? How does it enrich the narrative?

8. “What precisely are you asking me to be? A buffer? An intermediary? Or a spy?” (p. 35). Why does Major Walsh enlist Case’s help? Michael Dunne also wishes to work for Major Walsh. What does he propose and what is his motivation?

9. “They all got their first look at Joe McMullen, a weather-ravaged face, crow’s feet flaring at the corners of deep-set black eyes, a crooked mouth, an iron-grey moustache drooping two long wispy tails below his jaws, a tall, lanky composition of sinew, bone, and stringy muscle” (p. 44). Talk about the relationship of Case and Mcmullan. How do these two men complement each other? What does Joe need from Wesley and vice versa? What kind of a man is Joe?

10. Michael Dunne is hired by Randolph Tarr, the lawyer in Fort Benton. He wants protection from Gobbler Johnson. Why? Discuss their history and how their relationship will affect everything that comes to pass. Think about the irony of Michael Dunne teaching AdaTarr how to use her derringer.

11. What impression of Ada Tarr does Wesley Case carry away from the ‘disastrous’ concert where he first sees her? How did her family history impact her values? “He hears her say, ‘My mother used to claim that one can learn more about a person by scanning their books than could be learned by years of acquaintance. Do you think that true, Mr. Case?’” (p. 109). What is set in motion at their meeting the day after the performance?

12. One night Wesley Case has a nightmare that involves his old friend, Pudge Wilson. It has to do with what in his youth he calls “aimless dilettantism.” Who were the Lilies of the Field? What happened between them and the Dixie Boys? Who was the “Lugubrious Helmsman” and what did he arrange?

13. Dunne “has compiled a long list of such people who had treated him as though he didn’t own a thought of his own, beginning with his father, who had thought him no better than a dumb beast of burden” and “dragged him out of school at the age of eleven” (p. 133). But young Michael does show a particular talent. What is it? How would this be described in contemporary terms? How do his perceived “treatment” and his particular gift affect his behavior? Is he the antithesis of a good man?

14. There are various threads of historical conflict woven into the fabric of the novel. One is the struggle of the Fenians and another is the struggle of the Indians, particularly the Sioux. Both are directly connected to the relationship between the U.S. and Canada at that time? How are Wesley Case, Michael Dunne, and Ada Tarr swept up into this history?

15. After the death of Randolph Tarr, John Harding, the mining magnate, hires Dunne to get rid of Gobbler Johnson, who has now turned his way to seek revenge. When Dunne catches up with Gobbler and chillingly disposes of him, more is revealed about Dunne. Explain the meaning of his statement that his “profession is anticipating.”

16. “The entire prairie sparkles white except for one dark spot twenty-five yards in front of her house—Dunne in his black frock coat and derby” (p. 321). In this passage the author uses the landscape to express feeling and mood. There are many other uses of this trope in the novel? Name some. Does this give it a cinematic effect?

17. Why does Case finally reveal his long kept secret about the events of the Battle of Ridgeway that “will always be a shadow at my side” (p. 367) to Ada before he departs for the talks between General Terry and Sitting Bull brokered by Major Walsh?

18. “‘Why would he have made this long journey except for friendship and trust?’ Walsh demands. ‘And if it wasn’t for that, then what do these things count for in the end?’” (p. 376). This assertion is made on the subject of Sitting Bull agreeing to come to Fort Walsh. How does Wesley Case behave and whose trust is he betraying? Is this a foreshadowing of the final tragedy of Sitting Bull and his people?

19. When Case returns to Fort Benton he and Ada resolve to marry in Helena. This sets in motion Michael Dunne’s final plot. What pieces of the story are now brought together to carry it out? What parts in Dunne’s undoing are played by Joe and Ada? What effect does this finally have on their bond?

20. Four years later after Sitting Bull surrenders and returns to the U.S., he and Wesley Case meet once again in Bismarck at the behest of Major Walsh. What makes Case recall something that his friend Pudge had told him long before, “Courage in the face of certain defeat—that’s what tragedy is” (p. 463).

Suggestions for Further Reading:

The Last Crossing by Guy Vanderhaeghe; Peace Like a River by Leif Enger; Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier; True North by Jim Harrison; In the Fall by Jeffrey Lent; Across the Wide Missouri by Bernard DeVoto; Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry