A local author and former corrections officer has published his second book on B.C. crime.
“They’re not your bedtime stories for children, that’s for sure,” Neil MacLean said.
MacLean’s new book Beyond the Gates of Hell: The Untold Stories is the second book the Harrison resident has written. His first, Serving Life 25, focused on his career as a corrections officer and was started as a form of therapy after his retirement.
“I really kind of got hooked on it,” he said about writing. “Once you get your meat hooks into a story, it can be quite exciting.”
Beyond the Gates of Hell looks beyond the work of correctional officers and dives into the crimes that landed many offenders into local prisons.
Stories include the killing of Steveston Chief Constable Alexander Main at the turn of the century by a man who was known as the “Canton Giant,” the murder of six young children by their father, the life of a transgender woman who did 33 years behind bars for violence, and more.
“Some of the stories are pretty horrendous, and very troubling from a human standpoint,” MacLean said. “But I wanted to demonstrate what correctional officers have to work with every day.”
One story has local connections as well: the murder of Joe Philliponi, the founder of Vancouver’s Penthouse club, in 1983.
“What I found really enthralling was it had ties to the Italian mob, prostitution, movie stars, the dirty ’30s and prohibition, murder and prison life,” MacLean said. “But what was also interesting was some of the players all lived in Harrison Hot Springs.”
Beyond the Gates of Hell will be available as an ebook through Kindle and Kobo, and print copies will also be available through Amazon and local pharmacies in limited numbers.
“Without being able to do author readings, they’ll just be sitting in my office,” he explained.
Beyond the Gates of Hell isn’t the last book for MacLean. He has two more in the works: one on prison riots in B.C. and the other an encyclopedia of Canadian crime focusing on what he calls the “top echelon of Canadian criminals.”
“It’s become a retirement project (and) it’s become kind of an obsession,” he said.
“I think people like true crime stories. I hope people will enjoy it.”