Writer tack­les mur­der in new novel

Ties in with true tale in Har­bour Grace of triple homi­cide from 1833

The Compass - - NEWS - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON TC ME­DIA edi­tor@cb­n­com­pass.ca

When you’re in some­body’s pres­ence and some­body is killing some­body and you don’t stop them, well you’re as guilty (as they are). Pa­trick Collins

A man, his son, and a ser­vant girl. All dead. The mur­derer ex­e­cuted by hang­ing be­fore he’s hung in chains for all to see.

So it goes with the lat­est book from Pa­trick Collins, a River­head, Har­bour Grace writer with a pen­chant for his­tor­i­cal fic­tion. “Gib­bet Hill: Un­fin­ished Jus­tice” is built around true events in Har­bour Grace dat­ing back to 1833.

Peter Down­ing was the man hung for the mur­ders of Robert Crocker Bray, his son Sa­muel Comer Bray and Ellen Coombs. A sec­ond man form Ire­land, Pa­trick Malone, was par­doned.

“This time, if I were to break down in terms of per­cent­ages to truth and his­tory to fic­tion, it would be way more his­tor­i­cal fact than it would’ve been fic­tion­al­ized,” Colins said of his new book, his sixth novel and sev­enth book over­all.

The story of Peter Down­ing is one Collins has been fa­mil­iar with since he was a child growing up in River­head.

“It drove me to try and do some re­search as to what was the ac­tual real story,” said the au­thor.

The story tells the tale of the events lead­ing up to the mur­der it­self and the court trial in St. John’s. Those as­pects of the story largely fall in line with the in­for­ma­tion avail­able in his­tor­i­cal doc­u­ments. News­pa­per re­ports from The New­found­lan­der were es­pe­cially help­ful with the trial.

To help flesh out the story, Collins in­tro­duces a bit of ro­mance and also puts into play some de­cep­tive el­e­ments en­tan­gling key char­ac­ters in a com­pro­mis­ing fash­ion.

Of all the char­ac­ters in the story, the au­thor is per­haps most in­trigued by the per­son who was not pun­ished by the law. Collins be­lieves Malone was just as much at fault as Down­ing, based on what his­tor­i­cal records show.

“When you’re in some­body’s pres­ence and some­body is killing some­body and you don’t stop them, well you’re as guilty (as they are),” he said. “The thing was, one guy got off and the other one didn’t.”

Gib­bet’s Hill, for those cu­ri­ous, is in­deed a land­mark in Har­bour Grace. A num­ber of prop­er­ties just off from Lady Lake Road (known as Stephen­son’s Vil­lage) can be seen in front of a hill while trav­el­ling on Vet­er­ans Memo­rial High­way to­wards Car­bon­ear. Ac­cord­ing to Collins, part of the hill was cut through to ac­com­mo­date the high­way.

“Gib­bet Hill: Un­fin­ished Busi­ness” is pub­lished by DRC Pub­lish­ing.

AN­DREW ROBIN­SON/TC ME­DIA

Pa­trick Collins’ lat­est book is “Gib­bet Hill: Un­fin­ished Busi­ness.”

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