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Frank W. Anderson.

Surrey (BC), Heritage House, c1968, 1982.
Distributed by Frontier Books, Box 1228, Station A, Surrey, BC, V3C2B3.
62pp, paper, $3.95.
ISBN 0-919214-18-5.

Grades 10 and up.
Reviewed by Sister Mechtilde Byblow.

Volume 11 Number 3.
1983 May.

This is a fascinating adventure story of the man who staged Canada's first train holdup. The inscription on a point-of-interest plaque (1966) on the Trans-Canada Highway near Monte Creek east of Kamloops reads as follows: "Bill Miner, notorious American stagecoach and train robber, stole $7,000 in British Columbia's first train holdup, near Mission in 1904. For two years, unsuspected, he lived quietly near Princeton, well-liked by all. In 1906 he stopped the wrong C.P.R. train here and found only $15! After a 50-mile horse chase he was caught and sent to the BC Penitentiary for life, but escaped to the U.S. in 1907."

The head of the famous Pinkerton Detective Agency called Bill Miner "...the master criminal of the American West." Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier stated in the House of Commons: "No more dangerous criminal, I think, was ever in the clutches of Canadian Justice. It was a shock when we heard... that he was allowed to escape from the penitentiary."

The agency listed Miner as Canadian. Canadian police claimed he was American. Both countries, it seems, were anxious to disown him. Most accounts agree that he was born in Kentucky, between 1842 and 1847, the year depending on the source of information. One of Miner's several sisters lived in British Columbia after her marriage. It was discovered, after his death, that Miner also had a brother in British Columbia, who lived under an assumed name near Princeton.

The author relates in vivid detail the numerous successes, the few fiascos and disasters, and the several clever escapes of this "mild-mannered, soft-spoken" gentleman-robber. After decades of crime, during which he stole some $250,000, Bill Miner died penniless in Milledgeville (Georgia) State Prison on September 2, 1914. Legend credits him with being the first bandit to use the phrase "Hands up!" Although the quality of writing is somewhat uneven, both the text and the photographs will hold a fascination for many students in senior high school who read crime literature. The Royal North West Mounted Police report on the capture of Miner and his two accomplices in 1906 after they had been found by a provincial constable and that of Constable Fernie himself are testimonies to the law at work in tracking down the notorious gang.

At this time the book will undoubtedly be of much interest in British Columbia and elsewhere with the release in the near future of The Grey Fox, a Canadian movie about Bill Miner. The movie has topped the list of nominees for the fourth annual Academy of Canadian Cinema's Genie Awards.

Sister Mechtilde Byblow, Sacred Heart HS, Yorkton, SK.
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