Friday, March 30, 2012

Journey for Justice

So, this week I've got a blog post for a school assignment.

Our class read a book called Journey for Justice: How 'Project Angel' Cracked the Candace Derksen Case by Mike McIntyre.

Since people who aren't from Winnipeg, or Canada in the 1980's probably don't really know about the Candace Derksen case, I'll give a little background.

Candace Derksen disappeared when she was walking home from school on November 30, 1984. She was 13 years old. She was found dead on January 17, 1985. Then, until 2007, no one was arrested. In 2007 Mark Grant was arrested as a suspect in her murder, in 2011 he was put on trial and found guilty of second degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 25 years.

*Note, I'm getting my information from the book Journey for Justice: How 'Project Angel' Cracked the Candace Derksen Case, and followed up to confirm the sentencing here:

All the information I have on the time when Candace disappeared is second hand, since I wasn't born until 1993. According to my mother it was very tense for parents, and their children. She was 17 when Candace disappeared, and got to see and feel the shocks sent through Winnipeg at the time. Things like children disappearing and being killed didn't happen often, at least not as often as it does today.

But Mark McIntyre's book is what this is about. It was released in 2011 after the trial was finished.

I'm the kind of person who has a very strong empathetic response to stories. Let's just get that out of the way.

The first part of the book I find very well written. It's engaging, and reading about Candace's disappearance from her mothers point of view made me cry. That might not seem like a good thing, but I feel it means that the writing in the book actually connected to me as a reader. Later in the book I found it a little off putting when there were a lot of blocks of text that were from newspaper articles and psychiatric reports on Mark Grant. I think I found this off-putting because they deviated so drastically from McIntyre's style of writing, and the way they were dropped into the story line was mentally jarring. I wasn't able to get as immersed in the story in the later sections. I found including follow up with Candace's friends helped flesh out the effects of Candace's death on the community and her friends and family.

On March 22 Wilma Derksen and Mike McIntyre came and presented to our classes. I wasn't sure what I was expecting before the presentation, other than that I would probably end up crying. I didn't though. I feel that was because they were telling us about the book and writing process.

But this book was very informative to me from a journalistic point of view. While reading the first half, it was more like a novel, but the quotes pulled from Wilma Derksen's book Have You Seen Candace? gave it a news article like quality. To me, the second half of the book seemed more like a research paper, with citation of medical fact. That to me seems like a big difference in how easy an article or book is to read. If it's conversational, a piece seems easier to read. When it's clinical, a piece is more difficult to read unless your audience has an understanding of the topic.

Having read a number of newspaper articles by McIntyre, I've noticed a difference between his writing styles. After making the obvious concessions to the fact writing styles would have to be different between a newspaper article and a novel, there are still some distinct differences and similarities. His newspaper articles seem to me fact driven (as is appropriate for crime reporting), but they are still accessible and easy to understand. This is different from the conversational tone I got in the first part of his book. While it was still facts, it was in storytelling format and easy to understand. The latter half of his book was again, like a research paper and more difficult to understand. His newspaper articles are not hard to understand, but they are fact. He has managed to strike the balance between conversational and fact driven.

I did like the book, I found it very interesting. It also gave me one source to get the information about what happened to Candace Derksen. I'd heard about it, but I don't trust just word of mouth, and when Mark Grant was arrested I was in the eighth grade, I think. The presentation was pretty interesting too, though I feel that there was a mix of the trials of writing this book specifically and then writing for news in general. Sometimes this mix was hard to define.

But I hope you all have a good night, and I would definitely recommend people read this book.

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