Blood in the Water is really the story of two men, the most apparent being that of Phillip Boudreau, the not-so-innocent victim of murder, the other being that of the book’s author, the late Silver Donald Cameron. While it certainly would not have been the author’s wish that this book would be published posthumously, it has nevertheless drawn even more attention since the active mind of this wonderful gentleman is now at rest.
I had never met Donald personally, however, we did have some brief email correspondence around his previous book, Warrior Lawyers, a couple of years back. I have a similar relationship with his wife, Marjorie Simmins, an accomplished author in her own right. It is her I can thank for ensuring I received a review copy of Donald’s final book.
Now on to the review….
“It’s just something that had to be done. It’s just a pity that it was those guys who had to do it.”Anonymous
“I don’t care what anybody says, those guys were not murderers.”Anonymous
Those are just two examples of “Island Voices” that Mr. Cameron ingeniously inserts into Blood in the Water. The island being Isle Madame (off Cape Breton Island), Mr. Cameron’s home since 1971. Emotions were various regarding Phillip Boudreau’s life and premature death at the hands of three other island men, all good honest citizens (by most accounts) that Phillip appeared to have pushed a little too far that fateful June day in 2013.
All four were fishermen, as many in the small hamlet of Petit de Grat are. Phillip was a ne’er-do-well that had a string of petty crimes (mostly theft) but could have included more serious crimes such as rape, but there was insufficient testimony against him. Phillip was the type that the community put up with, for if you got on his wrong side, he may just threaten to “burn you out” or cut your traps or slash your tires.
The Phillip situation reached a boiling point with the three fishermen on the Twin Maggies the day they came across Phillip in his small Midnight Slider boat out cutting their lobster traps in broad daylight, right under their noses. Unable to catch up with him because of being in a slower fishing boat, a rifle was produced and four shots were fired, one allegedly hitting Phillip (although the evidence proved otherwise) and one knocking out his outboard motor, leaving him a sitting duck. From then on, the Twin Maggies struck and rammed the Midnight Slider several times. Phillip’s body was never recovered.
There are many stories swirling around this seemingly brief encounter, and as is true in any small community, everyone has an opinion and everyone knows everyone else. What is truly unique about the telling of this story of true crime is that it is told from one of the island’s residents, who knows the people he interviews as well as the defendants in the trial, some of the lawyers, peace officers and so on. Those he doesn’t know Mr. Cameron endeavours to get to know by talking to relatives, friends and coworkers.
“He [Silver Donald Cameron] was first and foremost a storyteller. He was a remarkably attentive listener who was so full of engagement and curiosity and interest,” she said.”He was just a very engaged human being who loved people and loved stories and loved hearing people’s stories.”Amy Cameron, Donald’s niece, in a CBC interview.
A master interviewer as well as a storyteller, Mr. Cameron’s comments and insights are both informative (especially about the Canadian judicial process) and emanate a true down to earth flavour. This is a book anyone can read without getting bogged down in legal and journalistic jargon. The author’s summing up is a superb analysis of vigilanteism, the strengths of Indigenous law and community values. A strong dose of food for thought and self-examination. Classic Silver Donald Cameron.
Some have said this is Mr. Cameron’s best work, and I’m not about to dispute that. This is an excellent book for those that enjoy true crime stories no matter where they take place or who they involve. It unfolds in an extremely logical manner, evidence of an orderly mind with good editing skills. There is an insert of black and white photographs, many from the author’s own collection.
Sadly, it is to be noted, and not without some irony, that Mr. Cameron passed away on June 1st, seven years to the day that Phillip Boudreau was murdered. If this is to be considered Silver Donald Cameron’s swan song, then it is an extraordinary one. Thank you, Donald.
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