Volume 95, Issue 25

Wednesday, October 17, 2001
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Sher shares new look at historical Truscott case

La Costa: a taste of Europe right here in London, ON

Watchmen release innovative collection

Outside the box

Sher shares new look at historical Truscott case

By Molly Duignan
Gazette Staff

On June 11, 1959, a sense of safety for Canada's youth was shattered. A girl was raped and murdered and, soon after, a boy was convicted of her murder and sentenced to hang.

Steven Truscott was 14-years-old when he went to prison for the murder. Over 40 years later, he maintains his plea of not guilty.

Journalist Julian Sher first met Truscott in 1997 when Truscott approached CBC TV's The Fifth Estate about documenting his story.

Sher, a producer for the network at the time, would dedicate the next five years of his life to investigating and unearthing facts surrounding Truscott's case. The latest product of his investigations is Sher's new book "Until You Are Dead:" Steven Truscott's Long Ride into History.

"Until You Are Dead" seeks to tell the real story surrounding the Truscott case, encompassing four decades of facts, experiences and untold testimonies that, if revealed at the time, could have changed Truscott's life drastically.

"There have been several other books written about Steven Truscott. I wanted to tell the complete story for the first time because I had access to archival material such as police notes, documents and government notes that had been hidden for four decades.

"I'm telling a new story – a story the jurors and Supreme Court never got to hear," Sher says.

Sher describes the immense time and effort he's put in to his book and the case as both challenging and rewarding. "Books are a challenge and it's very painstaking, but it's very satisfying as well," he explains.

"I call my kids 'book orphans' and my wife a 'book widow' because [writing] becomes completely consuming and it is very emotionally draining. To be a good writer, you have to live through what the people you write about lived through," Sher says.

"You wind up living many peoples' lives in periods of tremendous tragedy and courage and triumph."

Gazette File Photo
"I WANTED TO TELL THE COMPLETE STORY FOR THE FIRST TIME." Steven Truscott, left, and Julian Sher spent some quality time together as Sher compiled information for his latest book, "Until You Are Dead."

When an opportunity arises to approach such an historic event and uncover new revelations on an old story, Sher couldn't help but become involved.

"It's a case that has always touched a generation of Canadians who grew up in the 50s and 60s –the most famous murder trial in Canada. It was a very shocking and famous case. Most young people in universities today find it hard to remember that at one time Canada hung people and was set to hang a 14-year-old," he reflects.

"Everyone who was around then remembers the Steven Truscott case, but as a journalist, you never think you're ever going to get the chance to do that story."

Steven Truscott's was one story Sher has been able to cover and he's proud of his work.

"I think I'm most proud of the comments I've received from the people in the book who feel I've faithfully created the time and mood and what went on there. To have people who were there say 'yes, that's what it was like' – that's extremely satisfying," he says.

When all is said and done, Sher hopes not only to force the Canadian government to confront and deal formally with Truscott's case for wrongful conviction, but to generate a response in his readers that will change their lives.

"You want to generate the bait. You want people to be talking about what you're writing both because they find it interesting and fascinating. You want people to feel the book flows like fiction – like a thriller or detective novel – except that they have to realize it's true," he explains. "This actually happened."

"It's a story that holds a mirror to the Canada that we were and the Canada we are now," Sher says, not to mention that it paints the portrait of a man who has spent four decades living in the wake of one day.

Julian Sher is speaking today in Somerville House 3345 at 5 p.m. and later at the Central Branch of the London Public Library's auditorium at 7 p.m.. Admission is free to both events.

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Copyright The Gazette 2001