From the Chrysalis is an offbeat romance, but the backdrop is based on the most deadly prison uprising in Canadian history, the Kingston Penitentiary Riot of Easter April 1971. Six guards who were taken hostage survived, but two prisoners who were beaten and tortured on the final day of the four day riot would not.
As a student at the University of Western Ontario, this much is true: I corresponded and visited with two of the thirteen men who were subsequently charged in the deaths of these prisoners. One was my cousin Brian Beaucage (1947-1991). The other was Robert Robidoux, a young man who was a friend of my cousin's. I lost track of Robert after my marriage in 1975. Both his family and many of his friends believe Brian was innocent of these charges, but by his own admission, Robert probably was not.
To date, three books have been published about the riot: Gregory Bell’s Birdsong (1986), Roger Caron’s Bingo: Four Days in Hell (1987) Ron Haggart's Cool Heads at Kingston Pen (2012).
Numerous documentaries also feature Kingston Penitentiary and reference the riot. An April 6, 2013 CBC documentary revealed that Robert Robidoux is still very much alive: Tales from Kingston Pen
Long-term penitentiary inmates Gregory Bell (aka Norman McCaud*) and Roger Caron were both jailhouse authors and low key leaders in the 1971 riot. Norman McCaud died in 1993 and Roger Caron died in 2012. Bell's account was marketed as a novel while Caron's memoir purported to be a factual account.
McCaud’s partially fictionalized account of the riot in Birdsong interested me very much when I realized the author and my cousin Brian Beaucage had been friends. Ah, the friends you make in prison. Especially if you are smart. I would be happy to include a link here to Birdsong, but it's no longer in print.
This is the story of how I solved the mystery of who Gregory Bell really was: My Search for Gregory Bell aka Norman MacCaud: Clues in the News.
Cool Heads at Kingston Pen was published in 2012, but it is actually a compilation of Haggart's articles written at the time of the riot "by the reporter who helped resolve one of Canada's most serious riots."
If neither Bingo nor Birdsong addresses the role played by the inmate who protected the hostage guards, it’s no wonder. At the time of the riot, there were over 600 prisoners in the Kingston Pen and at least as many stories.
From the Chrysalis is about the inmate who protected the guards. He was also one of thirteen men later charged in the torture deaths of two prisoners. Although some people are convinced that he got away with murder, he was ultimately convicted only of assault. In my story, I called this inmate Dace Devereux.
*the only son of an illegitimate Barnardo boy, his family name of McCaud was spelled several ways. But what does it matter? After he made his first debut in the Toronto Star, a witness to a murder at age thirteen, he rarely used his real name anyway. Norman purported to be Scottish, but he was Irish through and through, the grandson of a woman who had made a mistake.
Feeling for the Air