By Nate Hendley
I always wanted to write a book. About ten years ago, I noticed a bulletin from the Professional Writers Association of Canada, a group I belong to. According to the bulletin, an Alberta-based publishing house called Altitude Publishing was looking to expand east. The company specialized in short, punchy Canadian non-fiction, primarily of a historical nature. Altitude was looking for Ontario stories and Ontario authors.
It so happened that a well-known Toronto bank robber named Edwin Alonzo Boyd had just died.
Boyd led a group of bank robbing bandits that the press dubbed “The Boyd Gang”. The Boyd Gang held up a number of banks in Toronto in the early 1950s. Toronto was a pretty boring place at the time, so the gang made for sensational headlines. It helped that Boyd had movie-star good looks and liked to leap flamboyantly on top of bank counters, gun in each hand.
I cobbled together a book query based on Boyd’s life and emailed it off to Altitude. They liked the query and asked me to write a chapter outline. This was done, and the next thing I knew I had a contract to write a book. The end-result was a title called Edwin Alonzo Boyd: The Life and Crimes of Canada’s Master Bank Robber.
I will always remember the wonderful day when a box arrived via courier containing advance copies of my book—proof positive that I was now a published author.
My Boyd book made decent sales and Altitude asked if I felt like writing another book. They sent me a long list of topics they were considering and wanted to see if any of them captured my interest. One of the topics was on the Black Donnellys—an ill-fated family of brawling Irish-Canadian farmers who lived near London, Ontario in the 19th Century. The Donnellys became the subject of my second book.
For those who don’t know, the Donnellys were involved in endless feuds with their neighbours. Barns were burned down, cattle murdered, people beaten. The neighbours eventually got fed up and formed a vigilante group. One cold evening in February, 1880, these vigilantes paid a visit to the Donnelly homestead. Bad things resulted, the details of which you will have to find out for yourself, perhaps by reading my book.
I became Altitude’s go-to guy for crime books. They kept asking me to do new crime titles and I kept obliging. Within a couple of years, I had biographies on Jewish gangster Dutch Schultz and Chicago crime czar Al Capone to my name.
Tragically, Altitude Publishing went out of business in 2007.
By that point, however, I had already moved on.
An American company named Greenwood that specialized in text books for high-schools and junior colleges, spotted my book on Schultz and got in touch. Greenwood asked if I would write a book about the murderous bandits, Bonnie and Clyde. This was done. Greenwood got swallowed up by another U.S. publisher called ABC-CLIO. Greenwood/ABC-CLIO has published three of my books: the aforementioned Bonnie and Clyde, and tomes on American Gangsters and the American Mafia.
I like writing about crime because it lends itself to colourful description and fast-paced writing. Crime, like sex, love and war, will never disappear so there’s always a fresh stock of stories to write about. True-crime is a wide reaching genre that allows writers to insert social or political commentary when appropriate. My book on Bonnie and Clyde for example, discusses the impact of the Great Depression on the United States and fast cars and machine guns on the criminal demimonde of the time.
I am currently working on a title about American scams, cons, frauds and hoaxes and keeping an eye out for stories of new crimes that might warrant a new book.
For more info on my books, please visit my website at www.natehendley.com.
Originally posted on: http://rosemarymccracken.wordpress.com/2013/11/26/nate-hendley-on-true-crime/