RARA-AVIS: Bad Men Writing Good Books

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@colba.net)
Date: 21 Jan 2000

All this talk about Eddie Bunker puts me in mind of Canada's own Stephen Reid. As a member of the notorious (but sometimes comically-inept and surprisingly non-violent) Stopwatch Gang, he and his buddies went on a bank-robbing spree that crisscrossed North America, and netted them millions and millions of dollars. Finally caught by the FBI, and eventually thrown in Millhaven maximum security prison back in Canada, he sat down and began to set his life in order. While in stir, he wrote a pretty damn impressive first novel about someone who busts out of prison and goes on, yes, a bank-robbing spree that crisscrosses North America, called JACKRABBIT PAROLE (1987). Meanwhile, he and the person assigned to edit his book, Susan Musgrave, fell in love. Musgrave was a nationally-known known poet who was part of a writer-in-residence program at the prison at the time. Upon his release, they were married.

He wrote a great little story about a down-and-out P.I. and an equally down-and-out actor planning to rip off the mayor's Christmas party that appeared in the GLOBE AND MAIL in December 1989, and that's about it. I don't know if he ever wrote anything else, but he seemed to be getting along: he organized writing workshops for prisoners, and lived on Vancouver Island with Musgrave, and made babies.

And then he more or less vanished from public view. Until this year, when he was charged with and convicted of armed robbery and attempted murder, following a bungled bank robbery, high speed chase and shoot-out with the cops in Victoria. I dunno. There must be an easier way to research a book.

Kevin Burton Smith The Thrilling Detective Web Site http://www.colba.net/~kvnsmith/thrillingdetective/ This month: There's still time to vote for the 1999 Thrillies, and check out some thrilling new fiction by Don McGregor and Mark Coggins!

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