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The Bastard of Fort Stikine
The Bastard of Fort Stikine

The Bastard of Fort Stikine

Is it possible to reach back in time and solve an unsolved murder, more than 170 years after it was committed?

Just after midnight on April 21, 1842, John McLoughlin, Jr. — the chief trader for the Hudson's Bay Company at Fort Stikine, in the northwest corner of the territory that would later become British Columbia — was shot to death by his own men. They claimed it was an act of self-defence, their only means of stopping the violent rampage of their drunk and abusive leader. Sir George Simpson, the HBC's Overseas Governor, took the men of Stikine at their word, and the Company closed the book on the matter. The case never saw the inside of a courtroom, and no one was ever charged or punished for the crime. To this day, the killing remains the Honourable Company's dirtiest unaired laundry and one of the darkest pages in the annals of our nation's history. Now, exhaustive archival research and modern forensic science — including ballistics, virtual autopsy, and crime scene reconstruction — unlock the mystery of what really happened the night McLoughlin died.

Using her formidable talents as a writer, researcher, and forensic scientist, Debra Komar weaves a tale that could almost be fiction, with larger-than-life characters and dramatic tension. In telling the story of John McLoughlin, Jr., Komar also tells the story of Canada's north and its connection to the Hudson's Bay Company.


Debra Komar is the author of The Ballad of Jacob Peck, The Lynching of Peter Wheeler, and, most recently, The Bastard of Fort Stikine, which won the 2016 Canadian Authors Award for Canadian History. A Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and a practicing forensic anthropologist for over twenty years, she investigated human-rights violations for the United Nations and Physicians for Human Rights. She has testified as an expert witness at The Hague and throughout North America and is the author of many scholarly articles and a textbook, Forensic Anthropology: Contemporary Theory and Practice.

Winner: Canadian Authors Award for Canadian History
Winner: Prince Edward Island Book Award for Non-Fiction
Winner: Jeanne Clarke Memorial Local History Award
"By laying out the facts and exploring them with relentless logic, Debra Komar does solve the mystery of who murdered John McLoughlin — or at least makes a completely convincing case. Not only that: she does so with panache." — Literary Review of Canada

"Thoroughly researched and in dramatic, evocative prose, Komar gives McLoughlin and HBC the trial they so justly deserved." — Globe and Mail

"Who knew the history of the North America fur trade could be so riveting? In the hands of former forensic anthropologist Debra Komar, readers will be spellbound as the author unravels an unsolved murder case occurring at a Hudson's Bay Company post in 1842." — Maple Tree Literary Supplement

"The Bastard of Fort Stikine is a fine tale, and Komar has done a superb job in gathering the evidence and sorting out what happened the night McLoughlin was murdered." — — Canada's History

"This is what makes for a great history book for me: lots of supporting material, well presented with just enough narrative to make it cohesive and interesting to read." — Miramichi Reader

"History buffs and armchair detectives are sure to enjoy this absorbing time-machine tale of murder, mayhem, intrigue, and justice denied." — David A. Gibb

"A rollicking read and a fresh contribution to the literature of the fur trade — scholarship and skulduggery in the same fine package." — James Raffan

"A fascinating biohistorical investigation by forensic anthropologist Debra Komar into one of Canada's coldest cases, the mysterious killing of a Hudson's Bay Company chief trader in 1842." — Peter Vronsky

288 pages
Pub date: May 5, 2015