History Slam 193: The Bad Detective

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By Sean Graham

Popular culture is full of popular detectives and detective stories – from Sherlock Holmes to Jessica  Fletcher, we seem to love seeing good sleuth get to the bottom of a case. That fascination translates into real life cases, where everything from crime podcasts to live courts proceedings find big audiences, thrusting those who investigate crimes into the limelight. This has long been the case, and some in law enforcement have fallen prey to the allure of the bright lights and notoriety.

That was certainly the case for Nic Power, a Halifax-based detective in the 19th century and the subject of Bob Gordon’s new book The Bad Detective: The Incredible Cases of Nic Power. Coming into public view following claims of saving the young prince from a Fenian bomb, Power enjoyed his reputation as an influential detective and did anything he could to maintain that position, even if it meant bending and breaking the rules he was responsible for enforcing. A tale that reminds modern readers of the importance of holding those in power to account and the need for a free and independent press, The Bad Detective explores a larger than life figure who boasted his way to a lucrative career.

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with Bob Gordon about the book. We chat about uncovering the story of Nic Power, his ability to manipulate the press during his life, and his rise to power during tensions with the Fenians. We also discuss Power’s unscrupulous behaviour, how prejudices aided his malfeasance, and what lessons audience in 2021 can take from this story. Bob is also the author of Life After Covid-19, which we talk about at the end of the episode.

Sean Graham is an Adjunct Professor at Carleton University and a contributing editor with Activehistory.ca

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