Exposing Vancouver’s dark and chaotic history (w/ John MacLachlan Gray, author of “White Angel”)

Vancouver in 2019 is regularly ranked as one of the top cities to live in global but it wasn't always that way go back 95 years to went author John McLaughlin gray says Vancouver was a dirty smelly corrupt l hold a place that played host to what is now the oldest cold case in the city's history angel McLaughlin gray takes us inside the seamy underbelly of the city not just the skids but the entire city he introduces us to a police department that is or was let's say less than professional high society that was scandal adulteress and outright robbed the city across all socio-economic levels was blatantly racist to everyone and to the Chinese in particular white angel is the story of the murder of a Scottish nanny and Shaughnessy mansion it is the story of La Forge alcohol drug abuse and police corruption centered around the murder by gunshot of Janet Stewart and the subsequent ham-handed police investigation and covered as gray points out the city is buzzing mmm the story spins out of control as the powerful United Council of Scottish society's demands inquiry the murder victim's fellow nannies have accused the Chinese houseboy of the murder and the newly established Ku Klux Klan which took up residency in Shaughnessy picks up the cause by abducting the poor young man and attempt to beat a confession out of or houseboy escapes the custody of the KKK only to be arrested by the police who promptly charge him with murder it is a case that is beautiful told by one of Vancouver's most colorful playwrights and often throwing and Undertaker who alerts a failed poet turned journalist so Janice tours death and the subsequent cover-up story becomes so real your senses come off as great points out the killing created the situation and now adjust to lifting a large Flat Rock who exposed the creatures hiding creatures represent a holy in glorious and unglamorous city as you turn the pages and help but ask yourself what happened to Vancouver how did we go from a lawless city with a thriving criminal class to the city of today we have to admit it is a dramatic transformation but to take us all the way back to 1924 we invited John McLaughlin gray to join us for a conversation that matters but how the cold-case the Scottish Danny epitomizes Vancouver in this 1924 opium hazed smoked choke and rain-soaked ugly conversations that matter is a partner program for the Center for dialogue at Simon Fraser University the production of this program is made possible thanks to the support of the following and viewers like you welcome to conversations Thank You Stuart thank you for joining me I had a great time revelry you bought mic right down here it was just great well it's perfect weather isn't over man you do with that yeah yeah it makes you a little sweaty that's okay the floor this is a great book so I enjoyed reading it you hope you have such colorful language and you really sort of take me inside different rooms in different places around Vancouver and you paint a picture of Vancouver just shy of a hundred years ago that's not that attractive it was a hellhole it really was oh god it was more polluted than you can imagine now the water was more polluted the air was more polluted it was full of people guys with PTSD it had a bad drug problem drug smuggling drive importations it had a furious real-estate fever yeah well what compelled you to write this book the white angel yes it it is one event was great unsolved murder case yes yeah it's and that's really attractive because it hasn't been solved and so that I can solve it you know I can pretend to solve it or I can suggest that what if done anything but really it's a a plot like that you you're trying to what it that this kind of plot it's a little bit like the movie Chinatown Nicholson yes that there's a central incident as a murder yeah that causes are wrong to be flipped over and you get to see all the kind of wriggly things kind of crawling out underneath and that's what I liked about it I this the story wrigley things everywhere in every level of society it was extraordinary ordinary yeah the police the police got it well at that time well the thing about the police then you see was that it was only that year that the war Measures Act came off right so the police who had been working for the last like since the beginning of the war by ten years that's right we're used to just if you suspect somebody you just took a minion you beat a confession out of them that was that mmm-hmm you know there was no habeas corpus there's nothing like that right and so and they were also hired by shall we say out of a fairly narrow field of well bodied men who weren't serving and why weren't they serving you know so so they weren't the cream of the crop shall we say so you've got a wonderful list of incompetence because you know there's a trial thing there and they ask are these questions and I a lot of it is forbade him I just pulled it from the trial because I couldn't make up anything more ridiculous than that I mean they say you know a bullet they thought they said that it was either suicide she was doing the laundry that morning and she pointed the gun at her own head and shot herself for some reason mm-hmm or it was an accident ie she fired the gun she was fooling around with the gun she fired it ricocheted all over the room and hit her straight between the eyes and the policeman was asked about that does that seem reasonable to there and the reply was well it's got to go someplace I gotta get hang on for a second while I take a quick commercial break I'll be right back conversations to matter is brought to you by Adam brown a client focused investment firm that starts client relationships who is straightforward conversations focused on you your aspirations and your investment priorities model and Brown has been a supporter of conversations that matter from the day we started this show their only condition was that we provide a non biased conversation with people from all sides of sorts of issues and of course we couldn't produce this show without the support of Oldboy productions if you're looking to produce a show like this one I suggest you reach out to oh boy they can help you produce it and they can help you build your audience and we also need your support I ask you to please pledge $1 per show by going to conversations that matter TV slash donate because those dollars add up and play an important role in helping us produce this show now back to the show wonderful job of like creating these characters with vivid descriptions from 30 the reporter top arrow who's working for the Undertaker and and going gorse Minh right Gorman Gorman holy apostle Gorman and constable yeah this real name was God was green and he did end up for us somehow when he was kicked off the force and somehow found the money to buy a hotel and somehow found that isn't that fortunate I think that's wonderful that and there was also uh well you know there the Tim and he was a tin nose man what they call a tin nose man which was Sparrow you know in the first world war they weren't prepared for the kinds of artillery brain stuff then you get a shrapnel wound right and the scope and you get its blast and you'll get wounds that are like a like your face blew up mm-hmm basically you know and in triage it's a pretty darn dodgy business just trying to keep them alive so the peace so there are men and I've seen pictures of the with half their faces are made of this very very thin metal well you go into great detail depicting how the artists yeah literally draws his face back on them yes and they have tremendous kill it was in France yeah it was an atelier in France and they they would use these these brushes with about three bright bristles on them and they would get a face and they they they claimed that these guys some guy would have half his face missing and you couldn't tell until he was like three feet from you it was it even the eyes seemed to change is quite remarkable I mean it's just a culmination of horror but also just this sort of amazing ability to accumulate a to come and some of the letters I read I mean of the guys who said you know and thank them because he could go home and he could go outside and he could be with his wife and his kid and he didn't cause people to scream to look at me well in the case of Sparrow you had him romantically linked to somebody so didn't mind kissing him no no God no it was only the upper part of the face mind you with yes as I was blown out but the other thing was that I always been interested in brain damage in the sense that brain can is brain damaged entirely damaged like is it does it and freight for example damaged things but enhance others well according to a dr. Norman Doidge who wrote the brain that changes itself that's exactly what happens is the brain compensates yes and and so long as you continue to use your brain and I activate other regions the the brain will make compensation well it made spare a little bit a bit these are real people to me now no I real people to mean yeah it made sparrow colors a kind of psychic and it slightly he was slightly clairvoyant mmm-hmm the problem and I have a lot of clairvoyance in my novels they show up every so often and the thing about clairvoyance I do believe there is such a thing but it can't be controlled right so you'd have to be a psychic yourself to know when the clairvoyant was right when he wasn't right and anyone claims to do it consistently is a fake you know you can't so yeah the book is very closely chronicles the actual case of Janet Smith who was a Scottish nanny working in the Shaughnessy aeration was working and she had worked with them in Europe and in England and she came here with the family right and they had he had a sort of default that the guy had a sort of odd background kind of slightly checkered background dealt in antiques right and antiques were used for various purposes you could move an awful lot of thing that is good without antiques yes in the in his partner or I don't make up facts I when I make up is there lines between the facts we just I think what historians do frankly but they just have more have more footnote I bring up the fact that this reliefs the real case of Janice man oh sure in your book you even Janet Stewart yeah why why separate from her well name and give her a fictitious name it's it's because a lot of it they all started out a lot of them started out as real people most of them did Janet's the thing about Janet Smith was she's got relatives in Scotland and descendants in Scotland and I really suspect from her Diaries and stuff that she wasn't quite the angel that was she was purported to be well I think kind of becomes clear near the end I don't really want a kind of I want to kind of cloud that for so that and then I have a I have a I squeeze squeal out of it and in the beginning to say yeah they're based on people and then I kind of take off it's like mccurdy started off as her old Burnie the poet because Earl Bernini was a young reporter working for the the Marple paper they're all separate communities yeah and and he and he was a poor but then I decided that he was a failed Port Alberni wasn't a failed poet so then away we write we veer off yes the convenience of story it's better to have a yeah I know well he wanted to be yes because he want the character wanted to be a feel important I was he speaking to you in the night telling you well aren't to be I didn't want to have to write good poetry [Laughter] I think the disturbing part about this and especially if we reflect back on our history and our relationship with Chinese teenage boys they were brutalized and here you have this house boy who happens to find earth yeah and then it's clear even from about the actual case yeah there's no way that he could have been the upper trainer and yet he becomes and snared and what the mystery is why it took them so long to accuse him right what were they protecting what was going on what did he know mm-hmm because they're only at the last out of the button is a last resort that they actually charge him and of course it was so flimsy he went straight out it was just but they only charged him after he had been abducted and brutal well for weeks this wasn't this was the height of the the the Andy Asian the Asian explosion leak well the exclusive did just come in hadn't yes Mary Ellen Smith the only the first mla had just sponsored a bill that had that that white women and or oriental men they I called them oriental mm-hmm couldn't work under the same roof right and they and the kk k– had moved and they had just come in and the KKK was a of the 20s what was a very different I'm working on it now and another novel on the KKK because they they were very different item than what you think of I post reconstruction in in the American Civil War because the KKK was based on a movie whose pasted on birth of the nation right and it was created by a publicity company the southern publicity Association and they took all the trappings of the KKK to used it that it's it's its brand that came out of the movie and created really what was kind of an Amway situation right because it was funded by its members okay so they went in and what she did was they would send new canvassers to find out who people hate it who and it was depending on where it was it was Catholics it Jews it was blacks if it Agence right yeah in Saskatchewan which was a big Center for the cake cake it was Ukrainians right you know yeah so it was they were basically the hate group for hire to do sure and they would assemble a group and they would they would grow until they couldn't grow any more and then they would just move on you know right it's a fascinating business so what's interesting though about this is of course there is the Scottish societies and the Reverend McDermott yeah gets involved and as that really incites this he's based on a real guy yeah yeah he was a he had his own little magazine and he was uh he was kind of trumpian figure you know he has that that he really tries to fan the flames of anything that's going on against especially Catholics and Asians and you know he was he was a bad one yeah and the Scottish societies well that was eric nickel the humorous used to talk about them muttering into their porridge because the place was so heavily scottish you know and right oh and it was they were of your conservative kind of tight-knit group suspicious yeah well and i and it would seem that they were striving to preserve Janet's reputation absolutely absolutely yes christ girl yes i think she was an angel and that was how there was the scarda societies that branded her an angel mm-hmm yeah how much fun did you have writing this book oh I really I did it to have fun yeah no it was a Stewart frankly I didn't expect to get it published you know I mean I've had books published by some big the big publishers but I was I was a bit difficult appointment I got a huge advance in the downside to a huge advance is if you don't sell it's all your okay if you don't sell commensurate with your huge advance so I I got I got three novels I would have one two three four and then they didn't even want to read what I was still I mean now the publishing business in in the big the big winner since it's been pulled it's been taken over mm-hmm it's it's like they don't work on years no they don't work long-term so you you have it's it's your bottom line of the year all right it used to be that they would invest not in a book but in an author right and they would figure okay didn't sell this one but he will sell and it will back sell his previous stuff right they don't do that anymore and so but Harper Harper doesn't care Harper just wants to do the they are the old-fashioned books seller Howard white and hard when he's interested in a book he wants to publishers you know and I so you're not dealing with the same thing and it was I just send it to him because I I've been writing it for fun and I send it to Howard and I say well just see what you think and he said no well I like it what do we do now or and so there's one thing that I have to touch on your you your name is John McLaughlin Greg okay why the McLaughlin is because of the confusion around John Gray who wrote several John grace I would had to deal with because I we know started writing books there was John Gray with up with a mail-order PhD who wrote men are from Mars Women are from Venus yes and I would find go at myself going sometimes in places like I don't have anything against Chilliwack but this happened in Chilliwack yeah where I went for a reading and there were people who came who did not look like my readers Oh shall we say yeah and what they came for was reactionary sexual advice which was III really didn't own that's the and then I got a job well hang on before you go on to that I picked up on one little reference you've made to that in the newsroom when he goes you know what do you think I am from Venus or something I thought that was funny that was a little I saw it and enjoyed it there are a few of those yeah I also got a column with The Globe and Mail and there was an eminence grise named John Gray who had been doing foreign policy and forum columns for years and years and years and so on and that year was the year my mother died and her name was mcLaughlin uh-huh and so I went Spanish yeah yeah yeah well I hope you keep writing because I had so much fun there were a few times when I had to stop and pick up the dictionary because you've got a couple of words that are beyond me and and I and I enjoyed that and so you know but your writing helps push me into areas that I know nothing that says something for you yeah because you're curious yeah because when I do that you could have gotten it out of context yes you could have gotten inferred it in context right but you said no I want to know what that word means that's well like my kind of guy yeah well you're my kind of writer I really enjoyed this book and I hope that you go on to write more and and and hopefully more about Vancouver because yeah you're doing things that allow us to see our past and the progression to where we are now yeah I think you're gonna do a great service as a storyteller and there's a historian thank you so much do it thank you for coming you

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