After most of a lifetime of researching and writing about British Columbia history, Valley author and historian T.W Paterson has turned his hand to crime.
Writing about crime, that is.
It’s not really T.W.’s first walk on the dark side as he has already written a book about some of B.C.’s most colourful outlaws. But he makes a distinction: stagecoach and train robbers were more part of our wild and woolly West than crime per se.
There’s no mistaking the real criminal content of Capital Crime, his 32nd book, however. As its title implies it’s all about murders, solved and unsolved, of which B.C. has had her share.
What attracted him to murder?
“Why does murder fascinate most people?” he asks. “Is it because we humans, as psychologists tell us, are wired for storytelling? If so, what, short of war, has the dramatic intensity of a good ‘murder’ story?
“Murder is, after all, the ultimate act of violence — drama — between two people. What’s more exciting than that?”
He points out that crime is the second most popular entertainment genre according to research.
A century ago, he explains, B.C was a pioneer province — bigger than all of California, half of Nevada and a slice of Oregon combined. It was mostly unexplored, with a small and scattered population; the thousands of non-Indigenous newcomers who were drawn by the allure of gold came from almost all parts of the world.
It’s actually astounding how peaceable and law-abiding colonial B.C. was — so unlike our American neighbours to the south. Much of the credit for this goes to our British justice system. More often than not, murders were solved and resolved with a trial, conviction and execution. After all, they didn’t call him ‘Hanging’ Judge Begbie for nothing!
That said, T.W. expresses a sensitivity towards murder as a vehicle of entertainment. He prefers that the crimes he writes about be old enough that the immediate family members and friends of the victims have passed on.
“I have no wish to reopen old wounds,” he says, “any more than I wish to further victimize the victims by exploiting them or sensationalizing the real-life circumstances of their deaths.”
He also refuses to emulate the standard fare on TV and in the movies: “Every murder in Capital Crime is factual and a human tragedy. Readers who enjoy unnecessary blood and gore won’t find them in Capital Crime.”
Capital Crime is available at Volume One Books and Ten Old Books, Duncan.