I knew while I was wrestling with the material that would eventually become my latest book, The Boy, that if my memory of a fifty-year-old murder was strong enough to dredge up flashbacks of the summer 1959, there would be others who remembered. The publication of the book and subsequent reviews and a CBC interview, have brought a wave of emails and phone calls and comments on my website that have proven me right. Not only are there many who remember, there are many who are still torn over the guilty verdict that sent Robert Raymond Cook to the gallows. I knew there was a play, The End of the Rope, written by a young Calgary playwright, Aaron Coates, in 2001 on commission to the Legal Archives Society of Alberta. When Vertigo Theatre performed the play early on in my obsession with the Cook case, I decided against seeing it, because I was trying to stay away from the question of Cook’s guilt, and focus on the Cook family who seemed to be all but forgotten except as a collective of victims. Ignoring “Bobby” Cook, the infamous son, was impossible, of course, and there were several times during the writing of The Boy that I pondered contacting Aaron Coates to find out how he resolved what must surely have been an obsession as well. I haven’t had the opportunity to speak with Coates, but I hope that will happen some day. Meanwhile, last fall a theatre company in Bashaw, AB, performed The End of the Rope, and I heard from old friends in Camrose who had attended, that this was a fine production. In one of those happy coincidences, the director of the company, Lori Miller, turned out to be the niece of one of my Calgary writing friends. The story got better when the Bashaw company was invited to perform The End of the Rope at the Edmonton Fringe Festival this summer, and it will be even better on August 15, when I finally attend the play.
I wrote The Boy against gut instincts that told me to walk away from this gruesome story, because I knew there was some fragment I was chasing that might some day be worthy of the print it took to spell it out. In fact, there were many fragments, and I am sure as I can be that Aaaron Coates was chasing one of them when he wrote The End of the Rope. And that Lori Miller is in pursuit as well in her decision to produce the play.
When a story will not rest easily, we’re meant to remember. So if you’re in Edmonton, see The End of the Rope. I will be there on Monday night, August 15, with copies of The Boy, which the company has graciously offered me the opportunity to sell and sign.
See you there.