Charles William Gordon, pen name Ralph Connor, clergyman, novelist (b in Glengarry Cy, Canada W 13 Sept 1860; d at Winnipeg 31 Oct 1937). The most successful Canadian novelist in the early 20th century, Gordon used literature as a pulpit to preach his energetic branch of "red-blooded Christianity." Educated at the Universities of Toronto and Edinburgh, he was ordained a Presbyterian minister in 1890 and undertook mission work for 3 years in the Banff, Alberta, area before becoming a pastor in Winnipeg.
In 1897, as a fund-raising effort, he published some short stories about mission work in the West, and with their success he began producing best-selling western novels such as The Sky Pilot (1899) and The Prospector (1904). These early novels are fast-paced, sentimental melodramas, with stereotyped characters dramatizing the conflict between good and evil in frontier settings presided over by exemplary churchmen.
The greatest influence on Gordon after his mother was Dr James Robertson, the Presbyterian superintendent of missions in the West, whose biography Gordon wrote in 1908. Gordon also published several novels set in Glengarry County, including Glengarry School Days (1902), in which he recreated the history of settlement there.
During WWI, after serving in France as chaplain to the Canadian forces, Major Gordon toured the US speaking in favour of American participation in the war. His novels then and afterwards were broader in scope and setting, more bluntly didactic in applying theology to modern society, and less popular than his westerns. Returning to Winnipeg, he chaired the Manitoba Council of Industry for 4 years after the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike and negotiated in numerous labour disputes. In 1921 he became moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Canada and helped form the United Church in 1925. His autobiography, Postscript to Adventure, was published posthumously in 1938.