Journey for Justice (CreComm Assignment)

It seems like every day you can open up the newspaper and see violence, tragedy, and injustice in Manitoba. The stories are about 400 words, and depending on their significance to readers they can be found anywhere from page one to the very back.  

But how much of a story can 400 words tell? How can so few words illustrate the heartache of family and friends, the dilemmas facing the police, or any of the other intricate details that go into cases of tragedy? Well, I think often times they can’t. And in the case of Candace Derksen, Mike McIntyre thought the same thing.

In Journey for Justice: How ‘Project Angel’ Cracked the Candace Derksen Case, McIntyre tells the story of Candace Derksen from her disappearance to her death, all the way up to the trial and conviction many years later. However, his attention to detail both helps and hurts the story.

The first part of Journey for Justice tells the story of the disappearance up until Candace was found dead. This is the most successful and engaging part of the book. I thought the way McIntyre told the story like a novel allowed the reader to catch a glimpse of the personality of the people involved – specifically Cliff and Wilma Derksen. Through dialogue and detail, the reader becomes invested in the story, and you wonder what will happen next.

However, this very same detail causes the book to be dreary at times, especially when analyzing the life of the convicted murderer, Mark Grant. McIntyre provides in- depth psychological analysis from doctors who worked with Grant, The information was a unique look into such a highly publicized case, however I felt the technical jargon caused me to lose interest, and it might have been worked better if it were just summarized.

Despite the pros and cons, McIntyre’s in-depth analysis on the case is something Wilma Derksen appreciated the most about his work. At school we were given the privilege of talking to Wilma Derksen in a seminar, and her opinion of the book was quite remarkable. Not only was she in support of the book, but she even said the book was “something I can show my friends to say: this is what happened.”

What an unbelievable affirmation that must be for McIntyre. To have one of the main focuses of your book confirm its accuracy with a statement like that is really amazing.

The support McIntyre had from Wilma in the process of making the book is really interesting to see. I often feel people generally don’t like talking to journalists, but the relationship between Wilma and McIntyre, and the type of insight that ensued just shows that journalists don’t need to feel like a pain in people’s sides. Some people want their stories out, and meeting these people can be pretty inspiring.

One of the most frequent themes of the story was the Christian faith of the Derksen family. As a Christian, I found their faith in God to be inspiring. Times of tragedy are often the most difficult times to stay faithful as a Christian, and specifically Wilma’s unwavering faith in the midst of seemingly unbearable tragedy is inspirational to me. I can see how some people would grow tired of the constant references to the Derksen’s Christian faith, but on a personal level it really hit home for me. And since it is such a significant part of the Derksen’s lives, I don’t believe it could have been omitted from the story.

Overall, I loved the way this story was written. It was interesting how McIntyre used the information he got from research and interviews to tell the story almost as a narrator. In a journalistic sense this is new to me, and after reading a couple books of journalistic non-fiction this year, I think this approach has been my favorite.

For example, I recently read ESPN: Those Guys Have All the Fun, which told the story of ESPN’s creation up until it’s current product. In this book, authors James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales took a very different approach to storytelling. They tell the story of ESPN as an oral history, by interviewing hundreds of people involved with the company directly or indirectly, and organizing their responses to the interviews to tell the story. There is no narrator in this book, only the words of those interviewed recorded verbatim.

 As interesting as this method was, I felt it read a lot choppier than McIntyre’s book, and was harder to read. There were usually excerpts from about two or three interviews each page, which means you have to read the heading to see who’s talking each time, breaking up the flow of the story. McIntyre’s use of a narrator makes it very easy to get caught up in the story, which engages the reader and enhances the flow of the book.

Journey for Justice not only tells an accurate and inspiring story, but it does it in a way that is engaging. This combination of good writing and research is where the book is the most successful. 

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