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Bastard of Fort Stikine

February 06th, 2015

As a forensic anthropologist in the US, UK, and Canada for over twenty years, Debra Komar investigated human-rights violations resulting in violent deaths for the United Nations and Physicians for Human Rights. She also testified as an expert witness in The Hague and across North America, and authored Forensic Anthropology: Contemporary Theory and Practice for Oxford University Press. Living on the east coast of Canada, she turned to fiction and first wrote The Ballad of Jacob Peck and The Lynching of Peter Wheeler. In 2015, she turned her fictional sights to the West Coast for a historical novel that investigates the shooting death of Hudson’s Bay Company employee John McLoughlin Jr. just after midnight on April 21, 1842. As the chief trader at remote Fort Stikine, on the Stikine River in present-day northern B.C., McLoughlin Jr. was known for his violent rampages. The HBC’s governor George Simpson accepted the fort’s employees’ version of events–that their commander was drunken and abusive, and the killing had occurred in self-defence. It was a difficult decision because McLoughlin was the illegimate son of the venerable John McLoughlin who managed HBC affairs in the Columbia district. In her novel The Bastard of Fort Stikine: The Hudson’s Bay Company and the Murder of John McLoughlin, Jr. (Goose Lane $19.95), Komar retells history, mostly assuming the worst in terms of interpreting the morals and behaviour of the fur traders, in her efforts to reconstruct the crime scene and solve the mystery of the death using archival research and modern forensic science. Publicity materials assert, “The threat from outside the fort’s stockades, however, paled in comparison to the menace lurking within. Hostile as they were, the aboriginals were no match for the worthless band of miscreants, malcontents and lost boys that made up the fort’s complement.” 9780864927217

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