Newspapers are a great resource for historical novelists, even when they get things wrong. While researching for “Soldier of the Horse”, I was fortunate that Manitoba Free Press archives are available via microfiche at Simon Fraser University. Two stories were relevant to me: the case of Jack Krafchenko (Bloody Jack Kravenko in “Soldier”) and the much larger, ongoing, pulsating thump of the Great War.
It was with great interest that I reviewed the coverage of the Krafchenko story, very much part of my novel: a bank robbery, a murder, a prominent lawyer defending and visiting the prisoner—and five hours later the prisoner escaping, apparently by means of a rope and a gun provided by the lawyer. The Free Press devoted a lot of ink to the matter, including coverage of a royal commission into the escape. Watching in particular for any mention of my father, I was both relieved that he was not listed as a conspirator, but also disappointed because according to family legend he was questioned intensively by the police. I was looking for confirmation—and found it. In a small paragraph, the Free Press reported:
“(Buxton, a crown witness) had gone to his office, and from there had gone downtown, about midday. He immediately visited Percy Hagel’s office, and found Mackie, the clerk, Wallace, Griffin and O’Donnell there. Buxton asked the “boys” if they had seen Hagel...”
With that passing reference the Free Press not only confirmed my dad’s story that had passed into family legend, but the misspelling of his name (Mackay, which we have always pronounced like Mackie), was no doubt a huge relief to the family at the time!