Vancouver author’s new book explores a dark aspect of Canadian history
Halloween has become a light-hearted celebration of all things ghoulish. But as late as 1910, members of the public, including children, entertained themselves by attending real hangings.
New Westminster, BC (October 21, 2022) – Hangman: The true story of Canada’s first official executioner, from Vancouver author Julie Burtinshaw, examines capital punishment in Canada through the lens of John Radclive, a notorious figure who both fascinated and repelled citizens across the country.
A former British sailor, Radclive was appointed Canada’s first official executioner in 1892, a position he held until his death in 1911. In BC, he executed criminals in Victoria, New Westminster, Kamloops and Nelson. Over the course of his career, Radclive worked tirelessly to bring mercy and dignity to the condemned. He was an outspoken critic of selling tickets – a lucrative and widespread practice that resulted in several riots – and eventually succeeded in establishing private, indoor hangings. A family man, Radclive was also a bombastic figure who enjoyed being a public figure, never wore a mask, refused to apologize for his profession and delighted in pointing out the hypocrisy of the elites. He eventually came to oppose capital punishment and died of cirrhosis, abandoned by friends and family.
Julie Burtinshaw is the award-winning author of seven books for young adults and teens and is an active participant in the local writing community, having served as a judge for the BC Book Awards and Red Cedar and mentored many emerging writers. Hangman is her first work of creative non-fiction, published by New Westminster-based Tidewater Press.
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