When D’Arcy McGee was murdered, the first person to reach his side was Will Trotter, a pageboy and the son of McGee’s landlady. There were no eyewitnesses to the crime. Patrick James Whelan never denied that he was part of a conspiracy, but always claimed he was not the man who killed D’Arcy McGee. He said that, on the night of the assassination, he was drinking with “a fellow called Marshall.”
With those facts in mind, I wrote this story.
The assassination of D’Arcy McGee just months after Confederation is one of the most dramatic stories in Canadian history.
McGee’s heroic conversion from rebel to peacemaker. A reign of terror by Irish operatives in North America. A beleaguered but cunning prime minister. A moonlit assassination. A sensational murder trial. And a man going to the gallows claiming his innocence.
Into that context I created a work of historical fiction. A cold-blooded assassin murdering at will. A young man caught in a swirl of intrigue and action. His father, bitter and angry, barely escaping a vicious trap. His girlfriend in danger for her love.
Man in the Shadows is a love story amidst ancient religious hatreds and very real terror. It is a courtroom drama and a political thriller set in Ottawa, Montreal, New York and Washington.
The D’Arcy McGee story has haunted me for some time. I can’t help but think that if McGee’s assassination were an American story every schoolchild would know it. And the extraordinary Sir John A. Macdonald would be much better known in another country. He was such a fascinating individual. Love him or hate him, he was certainly a colourful and intriguing character.
There’s a lot of history in this novel: the tragic drama of Irish immigration, the fragility of Confederation, the industry of the loggers and, from McGee to Macdonald to Allan to Gzowski, a plethora of exciting characters in the 1860s. Yes “exciting” dammit. Even in Canada.