Stephen Reid, a notorious bank robber turned best-selling author, died Tuesday.
Reid, who was scheduled to appear at next month’s Elephant Mountain Literary Festival in Nelson with his wife, author Susan Musgrave, was admitted Friday to the Northern Haida Gwaii Hospital in Masset with a lung infection and heart failure.
According to a statement byMusgrave, an air ambulance was called late Monday night but darkness and bad weather delayed its arrival until Tuesday morning. By that time, she said Reid, 68, was in a third-stage heart block.
“Despite the best attempts by Masset medical staff and Vancouver paramedics to save him, he is gone,” Musgrave said.
“The day he was admitted to the hospital, seven killer whales came in to the inlet,” she said. “The Haida First Nations belief is that when a killer whale is seen in the inlet it means someone is going to die.”
“On Friday there were seven.”
Reid spent decades in Canadian and U.S. prisons for his role in the Stopwatch Gang — a trio of quick, precise bank robbers so-called by the FBI for a stopwatch that Reid used during heists. They are believed to have taken part in over 100 bank robberies in the 1970s and 1980s, including the theft of over $700,000 in gold bars from the Ottawa airport in 1974.
Reid began writing while serving a 20-year prison sentence. He sent the manuscript for Jackrabbit Parole, a semi-autobiographical novel, to Musgrave while behind bars.
“She read the manuscript, fell in love with the protagonist and married the author on October 12, 1986, while he was still in prison,” Musgrave wrote on her website.
Reid and Musgrave were scheduled to appear as part of a literary couples theme at the Elephant Mountain Literary Festival, which runs from July 12 to 15 at various sites around Nelson.
Natasha Smith, executive director of the EMLF, said in a statement Thursday, “We were all deeply saddened by the news, and naturally we were reeling somewhat with regard to the festival. Stephen Reid was an exceptional author and a remarkable human being, and we were looking forward to having him here in Nelson.
She added, “Susan Musgrave has indicated she will honour her commitment to the festival as a featured presenter and as our writer-in-residence, and we’re grateful considering these difficult circumstances. We extend our condolences to Susan and her family.”
Smith said EMLF will provide a further statement in the coming days.
In 2013, Reid won the City of Victoria’s Butler Book Prize for A Crowbar in the Buddhist Garden, a collection of essays about growing old in prison.
Reid also taught creative writing, counselled other prisoners on drug abuse, and served on boards for the John Howard Society, the Prison Arts Foundation, PEN Canada, Spirit of the People, and the Journal of Prisoners on Prisons.
Reid is survived by Musgrave, his daughters Charlotte Musgrave and Sophie Reid Jenkins, and his granddaughters Beatrice and Lucca Musgrave.