Turf Smoke, 1945, is the only novel written by John Coulter. Coulter was born in Ireland in 1888 and moved to Canada in 1936. Coulter is best known for his playwriting and as a radio broadcaster for both the BBC and the CBC. Also included in the Ryerson Archive is John Coulter’s The Blossoming Thorn, 1946, a book of verse; Churchill, 1944, a biography of the British Prime Minister; and Riel, an epic Canadian play in two parts and thirty scenes. John Coulter died in 1980. His papers are held at McMaster University.
The dust cover design, interior sketches and layout of Turf Smoke are by A.J. Casson. The copy in the Ryerson Archive is signed by the author.
The following excerpt is taken from the jacket flap copy of Turf Smoke: “John Coulter is one of Canada’s best-known and best-loved writers. As a poet, a prize-winning playwright and a radio personality he is widely acclaimed. He came out of Ireland some years ago, and has so closely identified himself with the life of Canada that he is already one of our best spokesmen and interpreters.”
The premiere of the epic play Riel was performed in Toronto in 1950 by The New Play Society and was directed by Donald Harron, with Mavor Moore playing the part of Riel. It had a successful stage revival at Regina in 1960. It has been broadcast by the CBC and, in 1961, a two-part CBC adaptation was directed by George McCowan, with Bruno Gerussi taking the part of Riel.
From the back flap copy: Mr. Coulter feels Riel to be “the most theatrical character in Canadian history, and probably in American history as well. He rides the political conscience of the nation after nearly three-quarters of a century, and is manifestly on his way to becoming the tragic hero at the heart of the Canadian myth”.