When we hear the word farm we normally think of a beucolic idyl, of hard but satisfying work on the land. Not so for anyone who had the misfortune to be sucked into the orbit of the Pickton farm, and crimes so truely haneous that it strengthens my argument that some true crime could really be called true horror. Pickton was tried for the murders of 49 women, but the reality is that we may never know just how many women Pickton murdered, because of the chaos on the farm, and the fact as a pig farmer he had several easy means to dispose of the bodies, including in the local meat supply chain.
Stevie Cameron has written the definative book on the Pickton farm, giving us a detailed account of Pickton’s childhood, the police investigation which included bringing in archeology students to pick through the mounds of bones and other evidece to try to piece it all together, and the trial. It is huge and forensic in detail meaning that Cameron has pulled off the amazing feat of being able to sit with the information about not just Pickton’s depravity, but the neglect of the local police, and somehow remain sane.
Many of Pickstons victims were vulnerable women, who authorities chose to see as less important. As in so many cases in true crime, had these women conformed to a more victorian and outdated understanding of what a woman “should” be, and how they “should” behave, or in some cases just been whiter, it could well have been the case that Pickton could have been caught earlier, and some lives at least could have been saved. The real strength of Cameron’s work is how he choses to treat the women. How he focuses of their lives, their humanity and what led them to the situations where they encountered Pickton. Like Rubenhold’s The Five, Cameron consiously casts women who are sex workers, addicts and survivors of the care system as the most radical thing of all, fully human.
This text does not just stop there in it’s quiet revolution. As it also sits completely opposite most of crime fiction. A genre where it appears writers are in competition to out-do themselves with increasingly more outlandish and preposterous plots twist, or antagonists who have an almost super-natural ability to plan complex and difficult crimes out years in advance without a step out of place, means crime and the criminals who committ it have been removed to a preposterous level more akin to the Marvel cinematic universe. Is this part of a secular worlds need for myths, gods and hero’s, or is this yet another attempt to order and controll a world that is in essence chaotic and traumatic?
Cameron instead shows us the real world. One that it painstaking, slow, grim, overwhelming and dirty. Where strings are not pulled by insane but brilliant, behind the scenes, holywood georgeous pshycopaths, but mean, nasty people who’s twisted sense of the world is not aided by their brilliance, but aided by institutional racisim, complacency and the fact that still today, some lives are considered less valuble than others, even though we’re now aware enough no to say it out loud.
If you are board by the continual preposterous escilations of crime fiction, this crime fact book is the terrible, terrible antidote.