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Komar & Bastard of Fort Stikine

June 01st, 2015

Debra Komar will bring her cross-Canada book tour to Prince George, Terrace and Prince Rupert–inviting her audiences to investigate a 170-year criminal mystery in their area–with a presentation called, “Murder at Fort Stikine: Solving a Centuries-Old Crime in the Hudson’s Bay Company.”

After appearances in Halifax and Ottawa, she come to B.C. from 25th  to 28th, publicizing her third novel, The Bastard of Fort Stikine: The Hudson’s Bay Company and the Murder of John McLoughlin, Jr. (Goose Lane).


Prince George Public Library

Thursday, June 25, 7:00 pm

888 Canada Games Way, Prince George, BC


Terrace Public Library

Friday, June 26, 7:00 pm

4610 Park Avenue, Terrace, BC


Prince Rupert Library

Saturday, June 27

101 6th Avenue West, Prince Rupert, BC


Vancouver Public Library

Sunday, June 28

Central Library, Alice Mackay Room, Lower Level

350 West Georgia Street, Vancouver BC BC


All events are free and open to the public.


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.

While living on the east coast of Canada, she first turned to fiction. Her first two novels, The Ballad of Jacob Peck and The Lynching of Peter Wheeler, use forensic methods to re-investigate historical crime. For her third title, she turned her historical sights to the West Coast for The Bastard of Fort Stikine: The Hudson’s Bay Company and the Murder of John McLoughlin, Jr. (Goose Lane 2015), an investigation into 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 was forced to accept the fort’s employees’ version of events–that their commander was drunken and abusive, and the killing had occurred in self-defence–partly because HBC couldn’t exercise legal jurisdiction in a fort that lay within the boundaries of the Russian empire. Simpson’s inability to undertake a full-scale legal inquiry was complicated by the fact that McLoughlin was the illegitimate son of the venerable John McLoughlin who had managed HBC’s affairs in the Columbia district for decades. This case led to the elder McLoughlin’s disaffection with the HBC.

In her efforts to reconstruct the crime scene and solve the mystery of the death using archival research and modern forensic science, Komar largely attributes immoral behaviour to the fur traders. 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.”

In a nutshell, according to Wikipedia: “The second Chief Trader appointed to Fort Stikine was the son of Chief Factor McLoughlin, John McLoughlin, Jr.. Unsuited to the appointment, the younger McLoughlin was unpopular with some of the Metis among the staff, who killed him in what was alleged by them to have been in self-defense at his drunken rage. Kanaka (Hawaiian) employees who witnessed the killing were to testify otherwise, and to allege that the rebel staff, led by one Urbain Heroux, had conspired with the local Tlingits to seize the post. Because the murder had happened on ostensibly Russian soil, the usual laws governing the Company and its staff, which were those of the Colony of Canada where the company’s North American headquarters were, did not apply within Russian territory. Heroux and the others were taken to New Archangel for trial, and were ultimately released for lack of evidence. Governor Simpson, on his visit to the Russian American capital, was surprised to encounter Heroux at liberty on the streets of that town, but under Russian law the accused were free until convicted. Heroux was to live out his life in the Columbia District, but John Jr.’s death was said to be one of the factors embittering his father against the Company and his increasing sentiments and actions in favour of the American claim to what was becoming known as the Oregon Country.”

Komar has also written the textbook, Forensic Anthropology: Contemporary Theory and Practice for Oxford University Press.


Forensic Anthropology: Contemporary Theory and Practice (Oxford University Press)

The Ballad of Jacob Peck (Goose Lane 2013)

The Lynching of Peter Wheeler (Goose Lane 2014)

The Bastard of Fort Stikine: The Hudson’s Bay Company and the Murder of John McLoughlin, Jr. (Goose Lane 2015) $19.95 9780864927217

[BCBW 2015]

One Response to “Komar & Bastard of Fort Stikine”

  1. Mark Edward CATT says:

    It is not true that Urbain Heroux “lived out his life in the Columbia District.” He certainly had at least one child there by a Chinookan woman, but in 1843 he was transported to Norway House in modern-day Manitoba and was released in 1846. From there he returned to his home town of Trois-Rivières, and later married a certain Marguerite Deslauriers (September 17, 1849). He died there in 1853. Records of his birth, marriage, and burial can be found in the parish registers.

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