You’ll Never Look at Your Streets the Same Way Again

You’ll Never Look at Your Streets the Same Way Again

Posted on January 16 by admin
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Today’s blog post comes from our intern Devon.

If you’re familiar with Dundurn, then you know how passionate we are about Canadian history.  We love Canada, and we love the stories embedded in its past. We especially love the tales of true crime that our amazing authors keep digging up.  It’s always worth our while to pick up one of the true crime compilations (The Desperate Ones by Edward Butts, Practically Perfect by Dale Brawn, or Fatal Intentions by Barbara Smith are a few examples). But it’s extra fun to get our hands on those books that devote their entire length to one story in particular.

Here are a few titles that do just that…

Snatched! The Peculiar Kidnapping of Beer Tycoon John Labatt. In 1934, fifty-three-year-old beer tycoon John Sackville Labatt was kidnapped from his Lake Huron summer home and held ransom for three days. His captors, a group of ex-rumrunners, desperate in the days following prohibition and the Great Depression, were hoping for a big payday. This bizarre true crime story traces the abduction through to the trials of the abductors. From a heavily populated hideout to a case of mistaken identity, follow the story of Labatt, the first person in Canada to be kidnapped for high ransom.

Who Killed George? The Ordeal of Olive Sternaman. When Ezra Chipman brought fellow Canadian George Sternaman to board at his Buffalo home, he set in motion a nightmarish chain of events. Within months, Ezra was dead of a mysterious ailment. Then, shortly after marrying Ezra’s widow Olive, George developed similar symptoms, and eventually died at the age of twenty four. An investigation into George’s death suggested that George Sternaman had died of arsenic poisoning. Olive was arrested and charged with his murder. Sensational legal battles followed, involving the highest courts in both Canada and the United States. Drawing on newspaper accounts and legal documents, Cheryl MacDonald has recreated a true-to-life Victorian melodrama. Who Killed George? offers insight into the legal system, social sentiments, and status of women of the 1890s, along with the thrill of a genuine Canadian murder mystery.

Death in the Queen City: Clara Ford on Trial, 1895. A single gunshot on Saturday night, October 6, 1894, shattered Toronto’s prevailing sense of peace and security. That gunshot took the life of Frank Westwood, a respectable young man from one of the city’s most prominent families. This unprecedented attack produced a feeling of hysteria throughout Toronto and baffled the municipal police forces. Finally, a chance rumour led to the most unlikely of suspects — a young Black woman named Clara Ford. She was a most unusual character, a tough, revolver-toting lady who often wore men’s clothing and defied the norms of late Victorian Toronto. While the police increasingly focused their investigation on her, the motives for the killing remained a puzzle. Was Clara seeking revenge for a previous assault, or was she the frustrated lover of a young white man? The trial of Clara Ford captured Toronto’s attention like no other case before it. The evidence revealed a bizarre story of romance and racism. In addition to the wildly unconventional Clara, the cast of characters featured dogged detectives, and wily lawyers who at times seemed to make this cause celebre more of a theatrical than a judicial display.