ExtendedPublished by Webmaster on 07/21/2003 (45739 reads)
Setting up shop in a log cabin Service decided to write a novel about the Gold Rush. In preparation he traveled along the Klondike River visiting the famous gold sites and boom towns; interviewing those who had settled in the area during 1898 and read everything he could find on the subject. Having finished the novel he moved to New York City where the book was published as The Trail of 98.
Robert Outside His Cabin
He wintered in Dawson, writing Rhymes of Rolling Stone (Toronto: William Briggs, 1912). The manuscript was large rolls of paper, hung from the walls of his cabin. In the spring he left the North forever, as Balkan war correspondent for the Toronto Star. He joined the Red Cross as a volunteer worker in order to get closer to the front. The Turkish police took an interest in him before he got very far, and he left the Balkans. Still sending dispatches, he took trains west across Europe. He arrived in Paris in 1913, to stay for 15 years.
He settled in the Latin Quarter, in an attic room of the Quai Voltaire. He mingled with the bohemians of the quarter, taking painting lessons and passing as a poseur. He conducted loud, half-informed arguments about art in the cafes, then went home and wrote his novel, The Pretender, A Story of the Latin Quarter (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1914).
While pretending to be a fake artist, in June of 1913, Service married a Parisian, Germaine Bourgoin. She was the daughter of a distillery owner. They met while jostled together in a crowd watching a parade. Madame Service first learned her husband was a rich man one year after marriage, on a bicycle trip to the Brittany, when the poet led her into his cottage, "Dream Haven," at Lancieux. Service had cheated the town's rich peasant out of the house on a previous visit, by pretending to be a poor fool who would lose his deposit, his life savings, by failing to pay the balance of a bargain price on time.
A varicose vein made him unfit for service in the Great War. He covered the war for the Toronto Star, with dispatches appearing on Saturdays from December 11, 1915 through January 29th, 1916. He was arrested and nearly executed in an outbreak of spy hysteria in Dunkirk. He worked as a stretcher bearer and ambulance driver with the Ambulance Corps of the American Red Cross, until his health broke. He retired to Paris and Brittany for an eight-month bout of boils. When his strength returned, he wrote Rhymes of a Red Cross Man (Toronto: William Briggs, 1912). It is dedicated "to the memory of my Brother, Lieutenant Albert Service, Canadian Infantry, Killed in Action, France, August, 1916."
He returned to the war with a chauffeured Cadillac and an officer guide, to write about the Canadian Expeditionary Force for their government. In the course of his work he accidentally liberated the town of Lille. He wrote another book, with the manuscript title War Winners, a file of prose reports on the support operations working to keep the Allied forces in the field. He wrote it furiously to promote the war effort, and tore it up on Armistice Day, in disgust with everything about the whole conflict.
He settled down to being a rich man in Paris. He put the family in a two-floor apartment on the Place de Pantheon. During the day he would promenade in the best suits, with a monocle. At night he went out in old clothes with the company of his doorman, a retired policeman, to visit the lowest dives of the city. In retreat at Lancieux, he wrote Ballads of Bohemian (Toronto: G.J. McLeod, 1921). The poems are given in the persona of an American poet in Paris who serves as an ambulance driver and an infantryman in the war. The verses are separated by diary entries over a period of four years. The last entry is dated January 1919, about the same time Service finished the book, though he neglected to publish it until some time later.
Excited by the sale of film rights to one of his works, Service wintered in Hollywood with his family in 1921. They lunched with stars and directors, went to movies. His mother joined them from Alberta, and urged dime detective novels on her son. He took a side trip to Tahiti on his own, then returned with his family to Lancieux, where he started writing thrillers. The Poisoned Paradise, A Romance of Monte Carlo (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1922), set in the gambling world of Europe, appeared as a movie in 1924, just after the film versions of the "Shooting of Dan McGrew," and of his South Sea thriller The Roughneck. A Tale of Tahiti (New York: Barse and Hopkins, 1923).
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