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True crime book uncovers murders and scandals in the old Canadian west of northern B.C.

Geoff Mynett

In Murders on the Skeena: True Crime in the Old Canadian West, 1884-1914 (Caitlin Press, 2021), bestselling author Geoff Mynett relates the most sensational stories from a pivotal era in what is now known as British Columbia.

Focusing on the victims of each crime as much as the cases themselves, the award-winning Mynett relates never-before-published tales of the deadly history of northern B.C. and reflects upon the underlying influences and surprising consequences of these turn-of-the-century true-crime tales.

Hazelton, situated where the Bulkley River joins the Skeena River, was one of the most important sites in the interior of northern B.C. from 1870-1913. The gold rush, the arrival of the telegraph, and the ability for steamboats to journey upriver increased outside interest (and crime) in the region. 

Mynett provides true accounts of a dozen murders in Hazelton, including the killings in the so-called Skeena River crisis of 1888 and a blow-by-blow description of the shoot-outs in the streets of New Hazelton in 1914. 

“These accounts are based on government and newspaper reports, contemporaneous correspondence and testimony,” said Mynett.

Readers will appreciate his meticulous research and attention to detail, a testament to his previous career as a lawyer. 

Jane Stevenson, author of A Trail of Two Telegraphs and The Railroader’s Wife, names the legal, political, and cultural conflicts Mynett details as “precedent-setting” as they are fascinating examples of the formation of our modern-day legal proceedings taking place throughout B.C. 

One such conflict is the 1884 murder of trader Amos “Charley” Youmans, an escalation of tensions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people that brings into focus the violent clashes resulting from colonization. As colonial law and governance increased, so did tensions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. 

“The recurring theme of resolving Gitxsan and Western laws on the land base continues to this day,” said Doug Donaldson,  former B.C. minister of forests, lands, natural resource operations and rural development. “Especially relevant material in these times of moving to action in reconciling First Nations and Western world views.” 

Murders on the Skeena: True Crime in the Old Canadian West, 1884-1914 is on sale October 8. Details about the book can be found at caitlin-press.com. Geoff Mynett will hold a free book launch online on November 4, 7 p.m. PDT. Event information at http://bit.ly/skeena-launch

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