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March 7, 2008
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v2.1 Reference

Outrider of Empire

The Life and Adventures of Roger Pocock

A dreamer of dreams, an adventurer, and a man of many ideas, Roger Pocock was an inveterate, world-ranging traveler who lived the life that all adventurous boys desire. He listened with wonder to the stories of all those he met, be they outlaws like Butch Cassidy, ranchers, or mounted police. Readers of all ages and classes eagerly devoured Pocock's western tales. Outrider of Empire is a testament to a prolific author and extraordinary man whose friends and acquaintances bridged the worlds of theatre, literature, the military, and science.

About the Authors

Though Geoffrey Pocock shares the same surname as the Founder of the Legion of Frontiersmen, he claims no near relationship. Nevertheless, he has spent a quarter of a century researching the Legion's history and the lives of many of its members. Geoffrey Pocock lives in a village on the Sussex Downs in England. Merrill Distad is Associate University Librarian for Research & Special Collections Services at the University of Alberta.


"Pocock left his legacy in an improbable series of adventures beginning in 1885, when as a teenaged North-West Mounted Police recruit he participated in the North-West Rebellion, and through his heedless behaviour suffered the amputation of his frozen toes, damaging his health irreparably, but gaining the experience to launch his writing career. Like Jack London, his truly picaresque career would include time as a cigar peddler, salesman, Anglican missionary along the Skeena, railway tramp and horse trader in British Columbia. During 1897, he made a 'thousand-mile patrol' of mounted police posts in the West, reporting to Lloyd's Weekly newspaper. Then in 1898, Pocock led an ill-fated expedition to the Klondike, which resulted, through his mismanagement, in the death of his partner and patron Sir Arthur Curtis. This black mark haunted him for years, with persistent rumours that he had murdered and robbed Curtis. In an effort to redeem his name, Pocock undertook a solitary horse trek from Fort Macleod to Mexico City during 1899 and 1900, once again reporting for Lloyd's Weekly his encounters with bandits, settlers and members of the Wild Bunch in Robbers' Roost. This gruelling accomplishment set a record for such a long-distance ride. Then Pocock nipped off to the Boer War in South Africa with the National Scouts, joined a Danish expedition to Greenland, and reported on Russia during the Russo-Japanese War in 1904 for the Illustrated Mail, where he engaged in some comic amateur spying for the British Admiralty. Roger Pocock's life was one adventure (or misadventure) after another. His life makes for a fascinating and amusing read, while at the same time illustrating the spirit and energy of those like him who painted the map red during the zenith of the British Empire." Ken Tingley, The Edmonton Journal, November 2, 2008

"Another good colonial era read is Geoffrey Pocock's biography of his namesake in Outrider of Empire: The Life and Adventures of Robert Pocock. By 1899, the subject Pocock had already been missionary, pirate, soldier and cowboy. Always, however, he was a traveller, and that year rode America's dangerous Out-law Trail on a transcontinental journey from Alberta to Mexico City. Personal statement: 'Civilization is a poor thing to one who has lived the spacious life of the west.' Quite. An excellent tale of a British adventurer, in the good old days." Nigel Hannaford, Calgary Herald, January 11, 2009

Author Pocock — private researcher and no relation to his subject — has written this biography of Roger Pocock, including his historic journey from Alberta to Mexico City in 1899 and his foundation of the Legion of Frontiersmen. Pocock lived a life of adventure in the later years of the British Empire, and the biography follows him from birth to death and includes a bibliography of R. Pocock's works in fiction, nonfiction, and autobiography. Distributed by Michigan State U. Press. (Annotation ©2009 Book News Inc. Portland, OR)

"Roger Pocock saw himself as a brave adventurer. Others, however, considered him a drifter and a bungler, unreliable, disreputable, socially inferior and morally dubious, a marginal freelance journalist and fiction-writer.... Outrider of Empire describes Roger Pocock's family background, boyhood in England, youth in Canada—including service in the North-West Mounted Police—journalism in England and elsewhere, disastrous 1898 British Columbia expedition, Boer War service, foundation of the Legion [of Frontiersmen] and expulsion from it, First World War service, postwar misadventures, and finally honoured old age as the reconciled founder of the Legion.... It is the definitive biography and will probably long remain so. Definitely recommended." Roger T. Stearn, Soldiers of the Queen, December 2010

"An important biography - brilliantly researched and written - Geoff Pocock brings to life an era unrepeated, of real men and real adventures. Roger Pocock deserved better credit; even his hero Kipling failed to doff a hat to the true exploits, travels and experiences shared within. Pocock belongs in the league of men such as: Johnson, Earp, Cody, Hickok, Horn, Cassidy, Custer, Crook, Roosevelt, Pershing. He rode from Canada-Mexico along parts of the Outlaw Trail and changed route to make it harder! I hadn't heard of him prior to my '99 equine epic. Adventure lovers will enjoy this scholarly, highly readable biog. Simon Casson, author: "Riding The Outlaw Trail in the Footsteps of Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid"
University of Alberta Press

9780888644480 : outrider-of-empire-pocock-distad
Paperback / softback
400 Pages
$38.99 USD

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