The Story of The Mad Trapper

John Crawley poses with his book and a doll of Lucy Ball [Crawley] during a visit to the High Prairie Municipal Library Sept. 20.
John Crawley poses with his book and a doll of Lucy Ball [Crawley] during a visit to the High Prairie Municipal Library Sept. 20.
Chris Clegg

If you want to find out who murdered The Mad Trapper, read the book.

If you want to find out how Lucy Ball – one of the main characters in Lucy and the Hunters of the Mad Trapper – arrived in Aklavik, NWT read the book.

If you want to know how many people were involved in Canada’s largest manhunt, read the book.

Author John Crawley visited the High Prairie Municipal Library Sept. 20 to promote his book and give writing tips. His many tips and stories in the book inspired and interested the 20 people who attended.

But being a true author and promoter, he teased everyone with tidbits while never giving away the story, but still enough to pique interest.

The book, which reached seventh place on the Edmonton Journal bestseller list last year, tells the tale of Arctic adventure involving the Mad Trapper of Rat River. Lucy Ball was a hospital matron in Aklavik when that weird Arctic episode took place in 1931-32. She knew almost all the principals in the hunt for Albert Johnson, the mysterious and resourceful loner who killed one RCMP officer and wounded two others during a manhunt that lasted 53 days in the dead of the Arctic winter. Her involvement in the hunt is well-documented.

Crawley was born in High Prairie but left when he was three. He was raised where the High Prairie Liquor Mart is today.

Crawly did a short video presentation about the book, which he wrote and self-published. The former 30-year employee at NAIT suggested writers take courses on writing, computer programs and publishing.

But how to start writing a book?

“Start small, every paragraph is a small book,” says Crawley. “Outline your book as small stories. List your characters. Make each character a distinct personality.”

While writing a book, make each character believable.

“The reader is turned off by some small things not factual,” says Crawley. “Research every detail.”

He also suggested to read and rewrite, read and rewrite, and read and rewrite.

“Build a team of readers and feed them your characters,” he said. “Heed their input.”

For example, he gave the book to a woman to read. After reading about one character, she suggest a “woman would never think that way” so Crawley rewrote the part.

He also suggested having an editing team.

“A book not edited is a cake without flour,” says Crawley.

Slave Lake Lakeside Leader editor Joe McWilliams was one of Crawley’s editors for the book.

He adds to always print off the story and read from paper, not the computer. Mistakes seem to jump off pages but not the computer.

Crawley says he gained a large satisfaction from writing the true story of The Mad Trapper.

“I knew I would write this book when I was nine years old,” he says.

The main character, Lucy, was his mother and Rev. George Crawley, who served the Anglican parishes in High Prairie and Slave Lake in the 1940s.

The book was featured in the Jan. 20, 2016 Spotlight by Joe McWilliams.

And if you want to know the entire history of The Mad Trapper, who he was, who shot the bullet that killed him, and RCMP members involved – well, you will just have to read the book.

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