George Garrett: Intrepid Reporter. Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 2019. 288 pages. 9781550178661 (pbk) $26.95

Review by Mike Sasges

For almost fifty years, George Garrett, as a solo reporter for radio station CKNW from 1956 to 1999, gathered an unprecedented knowledge of copshop operations at Hastings and Main, and the residual goings-on at the Vancouver and New Westminster courthouses. He witnessed an endless parade of addicts and drunks and hookers and petty thieves and street brawlers.

?I don?t know whether to condemn you or congratulate you,? Judge Les Bewley said to one 50-year-old prostitute.

At 312 Main Street, the Vancouver police station, miscreants were held, judged and punished and also pitied. ?I can still picture Mr. Justice Harry Sullivan, in black robes with scarlet trim, donning a black skull cap,? relates Garrett in Intrepid Reporter, ?With tears streaming down his face, Judge Sullivan said to [the murderer], ?I sentence you to hang by the neck until you are dead.?? The trial followed a fatal shooting in a nearby nightclub in 1957?but the killer was not executed.

George Garrett is one of 29 recipients of the lifetime-achievement award for B.C. journalists from the Jack Webster Foundation. ?Over the years I built up a list of contacts that was the envy of many of my colleagues,? he confides.

Frequency of broadcast was another of his strengths. To please Speedy Alka Seltzer, the sponsor of CKNW?s first ?news cruiser? in 1958, Garrett would file eight reports per shift in the Downtown Eastside. Many prominent newsmakers have arisen from the Downtown Eastside?such as Larry Campbell, Libby Davies, the late Bruce Eriksen, the late Jim Green, Jenny Kwan, and Jean Swanson.

Garrett?s memoir sheds light on a less progressive era when police and prosecutors daily criminalized the indigent. Vagrancy laws and liquor regulation made for easy arrests and prosecutions. His book alleges that drunks were often picked up and jailed, but never prosecuted, just so the constables operating the paddy wagons could report they had been earning their keep.

There is so much to learn from this autobiography. 9781550178661

Mike Sasges is the author of Once Well Beloved: Remembering a British Columbia Great War Sacrifice, to be published in the fall of 2019 by the Royal BC Museum.