Wayne Arthurson on the historical Canadian setting of his latest mystery
Wayne Arthurson is the son of Cree and French-Canadian parents. For his latest mystery, the former newspaper reporter has created a new amateur sleuth, a First World War veteran with a background in policing. The book is called The Traitors of Camp 133, and it takes place in a German POW camp in Alberta. In this segment, Arthurson explains why he picked this setting.
The camps started after the North African campaign. When the Allies beat the Germans in that campaign, they had to figure out where to put all these soldiers, and the British didn't want them in England because that would create trouble with them trying to escape. So they asked Canada to take several thousand of these prisoners, and Canada said sure. So they started building these camps. They had a couple of smaller work camps across the country that held 400 or 500 people, but they needed a couple of bigger camps, so around 1943 they started building these camps that cost around $2 million and held 12,000 people.
There were murders in the Medicine Hat camp — German soldiers were murdered by their own men. Because they're so big, there was a lot of tension between the forces in these camps. I couldn't resist the setting — it's a great setting for a mystery.
Wayne Arthurson's comments have been edited and condensed.