Thursday, 29 March 2012

Journey for Justice

I had never heard of Candace Derksen and “Project Angel” before I read the book Journey for Justice: How Project Angel Cracked the Candace Derksen Case by Mike McIntyre. The murder of then 13 year-old Candace happened four years before I was born, but in recent years, the case came back to life when DNA evidence testing had developed enough to become useful in court.  

Because I had never heard the story of the young girl's death, my initial reaction to the book was shock and curiosity. The author gave plenty of details about the case, the murder and the family, I somewhat morbidly wanted to know more about what happened the night she was killed. I wanted to know why Candace didn’t scream on the night she froze to death in the Elmwood shed, or why she followed her killer in the first place. Of course these details could never be concluded, but I still had some questions regarding the book writing process. 

When McIntyre and Candace’s mom, Wilma Derksen, came to the RRC campus to discuss the details of the book, I was looking forward to what they had to say about writing the book together.  I wanted to ask about their collaboration and what it was like to sit down and go over the details about the days of Canadace’s initial disappearance. I also wanted to learn about how McIntyre decided on dialogue from the day of her disappearance and the days afterwards.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get to ask any of my questions because McIntyre spent much of his time discussing how to write books about murder cases in general.

McIntyre explained that he wrote the book in segments and didn’t go back through the book to do much editing. This shows in his writing because there is a lot of repetition and re-explanation of places and names that had already been brought up. This made the book redundant and exhausting at times to read, which didn't work well for readability. I like that he paid close attention to detail especially concerning the trial and the jury. Despite the details being a little boring, they were important to explain how high of a profile this case had in Winnipeg and around the world.

Journalist can learn from McIntyre's mistake of not going back and doing key edits through out the book, as well leaving out redundancies such as repeating the name of Candace's school and about the pool built in her name at Camp Arnes. Also, because the family and McIntyre worked so closely on the book, it seems like he wrote the book so the family would be pleased with the outcome. McIntyre emphasized their religion and their beliefs which at times were too much for the reader. Journalist who build relationships with the people in their stories should learn to still keep a safe distance so the story's plot does not get lost. And so the story written properly, and not to please the family. 

The book is similar to McIntyre’s column in The Winnipeg Free Press because he likes to use strong soft leads in his longer columns. The leads grab the interest of the reader, and get them interested in the story. Similarly, I felt McIntyre did a great job with the opening chapter leading into the book. He told the tale of a lonely street cleaner who turned out to be Candace’s killer. He also gave the reader a sense of being in the room when the family panicked about their missing daughter. Like his column, he gives the reader the same amount of details about what police officers do to catch criminals, which allows his readers to understand what officers do. Over all, the book read like a series of news columns which stays true to his style of writing.

Because I was still curious about Candace Derksen, I decided to call and ask my mom about what she remembered about the case.  At the time she didn’t have children, and she had just married my dad a few months earlier. My mom remembered the killer’s name, Mark Edward Grant, easily. She told me she couldn't recall if she remembered the details about the case from back then or from the recent years, but she remembered the feelings she felt when she first heard of Candace’s disappearance.

“I was worried there’s a creep out there. You always have to look over your shoulder. But, in retrospect, now that I have children, it would be horrible. There are horrible things that happen in our own backyard, we’re all acceptable of great love and horrible things. There are two sides of humanity.”

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