Edwin Alonzo Boyd


373 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-385-25657-4
DDC 364.15'52'092





Reviewed by Trevor S. Raymond

Trevor S. Raymond is a teacher and librarian with the Peel Board of Education and editor of Canadian Holmes.


This is a breezy, sometimes novel-like account of the life and career of
a Toronto criminal who “became somewhat of a folk hero” in the early
1950s. It was an almost unimaginably different Toronto then, and
Vallée, a journalist and television producer, describes it well. There
is a fascinating brief history of the Don Jail, where bank robber Edwin
Boyd met the men who would become known as the Boyd gang. Their two
escapes from the jail and the ensuing manhunts were flamboyantly and
sensationally reported by the media, and this book is richly illustrated
with front pages of the Toronto papers whose “hunt for circulation was
as intense as the hunt for the escaped prisoners.”

After the brutal killing of a Toronto police officer (in which Boyd was
not involved), the romantic aura some had given to the gang evaporated.
Two members were hanged. Boyd was sentenced to eight life terms plus 32
years in prison, but left in 1966 and lives in British Columbia where he
was interviewed at length by the author. Herein lies the book’s
weakness as a historical record. Memories decades after the fact cannot
always be trusted, and the press at the time sensationalized and
invented incidents. Nearly four decades later in 1988, when it should
have been possible to eliminate most of the fiction, the Toronto Star
published feature articles about the gang, yet many of the facts therein
are at complete variance with Vallée’s account. His note on sources
is virtually useless. The Toronto papers, he says, were “rich in
detail,” but his own book shows how they invented and exaggerated
facts and contradicted each other. “Other sources,” he says, “are
listed in the Notes,” but they are few and incomplete; they do not
give even basic bibliographical information on a previous biography of
Boyd which he used. Perhaps much of the personal stories of the men who
made up the Boyd gang and the policemen who hunted them down can never
be fully known. For the present, though, this is an entertaining and
informative telling of the tale.


Vallée, Brian., “Edwin Alonzo Boyd,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 28, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/91.