In 1907, the fifteen-year-old French-Canadian Ernest Dufault left his home in Quebec for Montana, where he was promptly arrested as a cattle thief. As a prisoner of the state of Nevada, he passed himself off as an American cowboy named Will James. Over the next few decades, Dufault, a.k.a. James, would flourish as a cowboy and horsebreaker and go on to become an artist, a soldier, a Hollywood stuntman, and a bestselling author of award-winning westerns — and his own false memoir. The Quebecer was so successful a pretender that he was later inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners, and his estranged wife, Alice Conradt, would only learn his true identity when, at the age of fifty, Will James died and left his estate to a man she had never heard of: one Ernest Dufault.
In Benediction, Olivier Dufault recreates the true story of his distant relative Ernest’s incarceration in a Nevada prison and his subsequent reinvention as “Will James.” Relying on authentic historical materials, including letters, telegrams, and court documents, as much as his own imagination, Olivier Dufault’s magnificent novel is a posthumous benediction of an exceptional American life in which truth and lies walk side by side.
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