REID, Stephen

Author Tags: Fiction, Law

Born on March 13, 1950, in Massey, Ontario, he began writing in 1984 while serving a 21-year prison sentence for bank robberies undertaken with the Stopwatch Gang, so-named because most of their approximately 100 bank heists were undertaken with ninety-second time limits.

Reid married his writing mentor Susan Musgrave at Kent Prison in Aggasiz on October 12, 1986. With her assistance, Reid was released on full parole on June 1st, 1987. He lived with his wife and her two daughters, Charlotte Musgrave and Sophie Musgrave Reid, near Sidney, on Vancouver Island, and at their home on the Sangan River, Queen Charlottes Islands/Haida Gwaii. Until June 1999 he worked in the field of restorative justice, with L.I.N.C. and in the NWT with Dene and Inuit youth offenders. His fiction and book reviews appeared in various publications. But heroin and cocaine led him back to crime.

Dressed in a police uniform, Reid, with an accomplice, re-offended with a Cook Street bank robbery in Victoria on June 9, 1999, pointing a loaded shotgun at bank employees and bank patrons. The pair fled with $97,000. Reid reportedly fired at police with a 44-magnum handgun. There was a car chase and Reid held innocent civilians at gunpoint after taking refuge in their apartment. On December 21, 1999, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Reid managed to get himself granted day parole in January of 2008 but his temporary freedom was revoked in November of 2010 when police pulled him over and found 3,600 contraband American cigarettes in his vehicle.

Stephen Reid won the Butler Prize in 2013 for his second book, also written in prison. [See Press Release below.] At age 63 in 2014, Reid was granted day parole at a hearing at William Head Institution in Metchosin. He has since revisited Musgrave in Masset. [See Susan Musgrave entry]


Jackrabbit Parole (Seal Books 1986)
A Crowbar in the Buddhist Garden (Thistledown 2013) $18.95 978-1-927068-03-8


He has completed one play, DOING THE BOOK (workshopped by Cahoots Theatre in Toronro, 1997).


He co-produced a prison documentary "Walls" in conjunction with the Spicer Commission. The film rights to Jackrabbit Parole have been optioned.

A non-fiction work about Reid by Ottawa journalist Greg Weston, The Stopwatch
Gang, was published by Macmillan in 1992. The Stopwatch Gang has been optioned for film by Tri Star Productions in Los Angeles.

Reid played the role of an armoured truck guard in the feature film FOUR DAYS in 1998.

Susan Musgrave and Stephen Reid were the subject of an hour-long CBC (Life & Times) documentary, THE POET AND THE BANDIT, January 1999.


Member, Writers' Union of Canada
Board of Governors, Prison Arts B.C.
Editor Prison Journal 1987
Judge of essay contest for Parole Board on National Crime Prevention Week 1988
Board of Directors, John Howard Society 1989-90
Moderator Citizens Forum (Spicer Commission) 1990
Host of Benefit Reading for Prison Arts, B.C. 1992
Host of annual benefit for literacy, Read Canada Society 1991-93
National Council Member (B.C./Yukon Rep) Writers' Union 1995-96
Co-Director, L.I.N.C. (Corrections Service Canada) 1996-1997
Artistic Director of Literary Events, Saltwater Festival (Sidney,
B.C.) 1996, 1997
Editorial board, Journal of Prisons 1997, 98, 99
Teacher, Creative Writing, Camosun College, 1997, 98, 99
Board of Directors PEN Canada 1998, 99

[BCBW 2015] "Fiction" "Law"

BC Bank Robber Loses Parole Plea
Article (July 2008)

from Canadian Press
Parole board rejects bank robber-author Reid's request to relax day-parole

VICTORIA — He looks more like an insurance salesman than a bank robber but at 58 years old, Stephen Reid, one of Canada's most notorious bank robbers, still has some changes to make before the National Parole Board is convinced he can resist the lure of hard drugs and fast crimes.

Reid was once featured on the FBI's most-wanted list, but on Tuesday, he was neatly-dressed and grey-haired as he appeared before a parole board panel.

He's almost 10 years into an 18-year sentence for a 1999 bank robbery and shootout with police in Victoria, but he told the panel his days as a career criminal are over and he needs to spend more time at his family home in suburban Victoria, as opposed to the halfway house where he spends most nights.

The parole board rejected the request, saying Reid, the bank-robber-turned-author, must build a stronger support system around him that will keep him straight before he is allowed more freedoms.

The board did, however, grant Reid permission to visit the Queen Charlotte Islands on B.C.'s north coast in August for two weeks to explore an opportunity to operate a bed and breakfast there with his family.

Reid told the panel members he committed the robbery to feed his heroin and cocaine addiction and pay off drug debts.

"This is the first time in my life I've been eight years clean," Reid told the hearing, which was conducted in a circle to give the process a less rigid atmosphere and reflect the journeys Reid has made into aboriginal teachings and spirituality.

Reid was on the FBI's most wanted list in the 1970s as a leading member of the so-called Stopwatch Gang, a trio of Canadian criminals known for their precision 90-second bank robberies.

The gang hit banks across the United States and was responsible for a $750,000 gold robbery in Ottawa.

The FBI arrested Reid in Arizona in 1980. He was later returned to Canada to serve his sentence for the Ottawa robbery.

Released on parole in 1987, Reid landed back behind bars with an 18-year sentence for the 1999 Victoria bank robbery.

Reid, wearing a police uniform, and an accomplice walked into a Victoria bank where Reid pointed a loaded shotgun at employees and customers. The pair fled with $97,000, but with police in pursuit.

Reid used a .44 Magnum handgun to fire several shots at police, including shots at a pursuing officer on a motorcycle, and he fired at an innocent woman bystander, knocking a paint tray from her hand, in an attempt to create a diversion.

Reid and Allan McCallum were arrested after a standoff at a nearby apartment.

Reid was granted day-parole last January, but the conditions require him to spend five nights a week at the halfway house.

The circle included two members of the parole board, an aboriginal elder, Reid's stepdaughter, his parole officer and a spokeswoman for his halfway house.

Reid's wife, poet, Susan Musgrave, was teaching in Vancouver and did not attend the hearing and neither did his youngest daughter.

"I've been able to turn things over," said Reid. "I'm not afraid to share things today. I reach out for help. I reach out for all the help I can get. I'm 58 years old."

Reid was asked several pointed questions about his criminal past by parole board members Ben Anderson and Terry Little.

Anderson referred to Reid's past reputation as a "manipulative con."

"What has changed in your behaviour?" he said. "When are we going to see the real Stephen Reid?"

Reid said he confronts his negative emotions immediately and his family and friends will no longer tolerate any moves toward his past behaviour.

"Why did you chose to be a bank robber with a loaded gun?" said Little.

Reid said he wasn't just a bank robber. His life of crime started at 13 years old, and it included drug dealing, theft and robbery.

"The criminal lifestyle, I just bought into it," he said.

Reid's semi-autobiographical novel, Jackrabbit Parole, netted the Massey, Ont., native acclaim in Canada's literary community.

Reid said he is currently writing another autobiographical work, but it is much more reflective in tone that delves deeply into his consciousness as opposed to the fast-paced themes of his previous works.

"I don't think I can write in an exploitive way," he said. "It's a much more meditative book."

Reid Wins Butler Prize
Press Release (2013)

At the Victoria Book Prize Society awards gala this evening, two Greater
Victoria authors were recognized for their literary achievement.

Stephen Reid, author of A Crowbar in the Buddhist Garden (Thistledown Press),
won the tenth annual City of Victoria Butler Book Prize; and Polly Horvath,
author of One Year in Coal Harbour (Groundwood Books), won the sixth annual Bolen Books Children’s Book Prize. Colin Holt of Bolen Books
presented Horvath with a cheque for $5,000. Mayor Dean Fortin and Brian
Butler of Butler Brothers Supplies Ltd. presented the $5000 prize to Al
Forrie of Thistledown Press, Reid’s publisher.

In his collection of essays, A Crowbar in the Buddhist Garden, Reid has
created an affecting book about growing old in prison. He grapples with
issues such as the painful separation of family and friends and the nature
of addiction. Jurors for the City of Victoria Butler Book Prize writer George
Fetherling, academic/editor Laurie Ricou, and librarian Michelle Whitehead
had this to say of the winning book: “Framed by a sharply observed,
imaginatively speculative, and risky exploration of beachcombing, Stephen
Reid’s A Crowbar in the Buddhist Garden is a prison ethnography taut with
wit and humanity.”

Stephen Reid began writing in 1984 while serving a 21-year prison
sentence for his role as a member of the “Stopwatch Gang." He has written
a novel, Jackrabbit Parole, as well as articles and essays in a variety of
journals, magazines and newspapers. He has taught creative writing,
worked as a youth counselor, and served on boards for the John Howard
Society, Prison Arts Foundation, PEN Canada, Spirit of the People and the
Journal of Prisoners on Prisons. Reid is married to writer Susan Musgrave.

The other finalists were C.P. Boyko for Psychology and Other Stories
(Biblioasis), Christina Johnson-Dean for The Life and Art of Ina D.D.
Uhthoff, (Mother Tongue) Lorna Crozier for The Book of Marvels: A
Compendium of Everyday Things (Greystone) and Bill Gaston for The
World. (Hamish Hamilton).

In Horvath’s One Year in Coal Harbour, Primrose Squarp is back! The wise
and curious heroine of the Newbery Honor Book Everything on a Waffle is
facing another adventure-filled year in Coal Harbour. Primrose’s parents
are safe at home, having once been lost at sea. But now other people and
places that Primrose loves are in precarious circumstances. Through a
year of turmoil, Primrose is undaunted as she tries to save what matters to

Jurors for the Bolen Books Children’s Book Prize Leslie Hudson, librarian,
Freda Nobbs, bookseller and writer Beryl Young had this to say about the
winning entry, “Woven throughout are glimpses of just what it means to be
alive, of how to discern what you truly value and cherish, how to find
beauty, even when it’s wrapped in anger and pain. Brimming with wit, imagination, and insight, One Year in Coal Harbour is at once contemporary and timeless.”

Polly Horvath is one of the most highly acclaimed authors writing today.
Her books include The Canning Season (winner of the National Book
Award and the CLA Young Adult Book Award), Everything on a Waffle (a
Newbery Honor Book, an ALA Notable Book and winner of the Mr. Christie's Book Award and the Sheila A. Egoff Children's Literature Prize),
The Trolls (a National Book Award finalist), My One Hundred Adventures
(a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, a Booklist Editors'
Choice, a Kirkus Reviews Best Children's Book of the Year and winner of a NAPPA Gold Award and the Sheila A. Egoff Children's Literature Prize),
and Northward to the Moon (an Oprah's Book Club Kids' Reading List
selection and winner of a Parents' Choice Gold Award). Her next book,
Lord and Lady Bunny: Detectives Extraordinaire! will be published in
February 2014.

The other finalists were Sarah N. Harvey for Three Little Words and Kit
Pearson for And Nothing But the Truth.
The 10-year anniversary gala, held at the Union Club was emceed by Jo-
Ann Roberts of CBC’s “All Points West.” Janet Marie Rogers, Poet Laureate for the City of Victoria, opened the evening with a reading from her recent work. Founders of the Victoria Book Prize Society Bess Jillings, Robert Kennedy, Richard Olafson, Dennis Reid, Stephen Scobie, and Jim Munro were on hand to celebrate 10 years of celebrating local writers as
were many previous winners.

Founded in 2004, the City of Victoria Butler Book Prize is a partnership
between the City of Victoria and Brian Butler of Butler Brothers Supplies.
The Bolen Books Children’s Book Prize was founded in 2008 and is funded by Bolen Books. This year’s sponsors include the Union Club, Greater Victoria Public Library, the Magnolia Hotel and Spa, CBC Radio, Island Blue Print, and Thrifty Foods.

The Victoria Book Prize Society establishes the policy and criteria for the prizes, appoints the juries, and administers the competitions. For more information visit