Friday, March 30, 2012

Journey For Justice: My experience reading McIntyre's books

On March 22nd, I had the honour of listening to Mike McIntyre talk about his latest true crime book Journey For Justice.  The story depicts the case of Candace Derksen's murder and the eventual guilty verdict Mark Grant would face over 26 years later.  The icing on the cake was listening to Candace's mother, Wilma, talk about the murder.

The story is about many things.  Justice.  Breakthrough in forensic science.  Murder.  But most importantly, it's about the things that Wilma teaches us in the book.  Forgiveness.  Love.  Faith.  All of these things brought her and her family together in a time they needed it the most.  I could never imagine going through what Mrs. Derksen and her family went through.  It's something that most people wouldn't even wish on their worst enemies.  I've realized this even more after reading the book because we look into a window that shows us the past.  We're able to see how the Derksen family and the community dealt with the disappearance of Candace, all the way to the verdict on Mr. Grant many years later.  Because of his writing, Mr. McIntyre allows us such an indepth look at what happens during all of these critical moments that can make or break a person.

Mr. McIntyre and Mrs. Derksen each brought a unique perspective to the seminar.

Mike talked a lot about what it was like interviewing many of the people not only in this book but some of his others.  He briefly discussed one of his other books Devil Among Us, the story about Peter Whitmore's constant prison visits and gave excellent perception on Canada's revolving door justice system. Whitmore kidnapped a boy in Manitoba and Saskatchewan and held them hostage for his own sexual gain.  McIntyre drove out to Saskatchewan in hopes of interviewing the Saskatchewan boy's father.  At the time, none of the family was addressing the media.  McIntyre was successful.  That's the drive of the journalist that I want to become.  He told us how to be respectful of the people we interview, especially with such a touchy topic.  However, if done correctly, if a journalist can show their target that they are just a human being too, anything is possible.

Wilma Derksen was amazing to listen to.  I wish we had more time to talk to her.  She's filled with so much love and kindness and it makes me angry that Mark Grant was able to do this to such a sweet woman's family.  Wilma was indeed frustrated throughout the entire process back in the 80's, which is normal.  But it's easy to tell that she was the same person then as she is now.  It's natural for someone to be intrigued by Wilma.  She has a story that none of us could imagine telling, never mind living it.

Journey For Justice works because it tells a real story.  I'm obsessed with true crime.  I love the detail that is put into the books.  No stone is left unturned.  I really enjoyed how Mike set up the book with the present day Mark Stone just days before he was arrested for the murder of Candace.  It was a good way to "tee it up" so-to-speak and makes for a more interesting read rather than telling the story in chronological order.

The detail was great, however, sometimes it can be overbearing.  This happened in Journey For Justice too.  Part 2 describes who Mark Stone is.  This led to a lot of reports from doctors in the middle of the book.  While this information is important, it was hard to read jargon after jargon from doctors analyzing Stone's mind while in prison.  I felt that this would have been a good time to "show, don't tell".  However, that would be hard to do when Stone has still never admitted to the crime despite being sentenced to prison.  Mark would never want to be interviewed for a book about how he murdered a young girl.  That's why the reports are there.

As a young journalist, I know I can learn a lot from this book.  Writing for crime can be very hard, because there are many regulations and rules you must follow while writing about a court case.  You cannot be biased.  Not even in the slightest.  Even though Mike wrote this book knowing that Mark Stone would be guilty, he needed write the book like a story.  That means that Stone is innocent the entire book, until he was proven guilty at the end.  Mike can't go out on a limb in the book, or in any of his other articles about how an individual is guilty.  This can be hard to do, because I find that when reading the news, people can easily get the perception that someone is guilty even if they are in the middle of trial.  (See: Mark Stobbe).  Mike can only write about what happens in the court room, and nothing else.  I also really enjoyed that Mike included how the jury was selected.  It's a process that many of us don't know a lot about, and I like how Mike stressed how important it is to find 12 individuals who will be absolutely neutral in the case.  That can be a very hard thing to do when the media can easily make out someone to be guilty before trial even begins.

McIntyre tells the story in the most neutral way possible.  I really appreciate that he, being a journalist, has written true crime books because he is a credible source.  There are plenty of true crime books pumped out each and every year.  Many of these people have no journalistic experience, and are simply out there to try and publish their book first and make money.  This leads to less research and an overall less appealing book.  Mike even talked about how he'd rather take his time writing the book to make sure it's correct, rather than being the first book out there.  An example of one of these other books that I've read recently is called The Boston Stranglers by Susan Kelly.  In her book, she claims that Albert DeSalvo, known as the Boston Strangler, admitted to killing 11 different women because he wanted the fame.  Rather, it was up to 8 different people who killed the women.  While, it could very well be likely  this is true, Kelly is an author first and a journalist second.  She's published works of fiction and non-fiction and I had a hard time believing some of the book since it was based on a conspiracy theory.  McIntyre's work is real.  He was there for the verdicts.  He knows crime so well, and has become a source of knowledge that I trust.

If you've never read any other books by McIntyre.  I really suggest you do.  Journey For Justice tells a story about a family and how they stuck together.  However, many of his other books involve a lot more detail in the killings, robberies or whatever crime was committed.  If you're into that type of detail, then you will likely enjoy some of his other work.  True crime amazes me, but what I love the most about McIntyre's books is that they're all local and hit close to home.

Here they are:

Devil Among Us - The story of Peter Whitmore and the revolving door justice system.  Focuses on two boys he kidnapped from Manitoba and Saskatchewan and the sexual abuse he put them through.

To The Grave - The amazing RCMP sting that took place in Brandon, MB.  Erin Chorney tells her mom she'll be back in an hour, but never returns.  Police go undercover to find out the truth of what happened to Erin.

The Yultide Bandit - Michael Syrnyk's robberies happened year after year around Christmas time.  He is captured in a stand-off with police.  You might recall his bank heist at Polo Park Shopping Centre in 2000.

Nowhere to Run: The Killing of Dennis Strongquill: The shooting of the Constable Dennis Strongquill and the hunt for the group of people that killed him takes police all the way to Alberta.

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