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The Bushman’s Lair

On the Trail of the Fugitive of the Shuswap

by Paul McKendrick

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criminals & outlaws, post-confederation (1867-)
list price: $22.95
published: 2021

In the summer of 2002, the discovery of a cave on Shuswap Lake in British Columbia by a group of houseboaters made headlines across the country. It had been the hideout of a fugitive known as the Bushman—real name John Bjornstrom—who had been arrested the previous winter after raiding cabins in the area for supplies.

Shortly after the cave was discovered, and before it was imploded by local authorities, author Paul McKendrick was able to explore the nine-hundred-square-foot bachelor pad. Its elaborate construction left the impression that the occupant was more than just a common thief with a preference for uncommon living arrangements.

Nearly two decades later, McKendrick set out to better understand what led the Bushman to the cave. The Bushman’s Lair is the culmination of numerous interviews, reviews of RCMP and court transcripts, declassified us government files and McKendrick’s own adventures in the Shuswap. The resulting book follows Bjornstrom’s circuitous path: a child of Romani refugees raised by nature lovers from Norway; a bizarre, top-secret us government program that recruited individuals with supposed psychic abilities; an investigation into the infamous Bre-X mining scandal that led to an alleged hit list; and an ardent mission to safeguard vulnerable youth from abuse.

While some mysteries remain unsolved, McKendrick’s exploration of Bjornstrom’s story is an unexpectedly moving and unforgettable account of a man who decided to pursue a quest with boundless commitment.

Reminiscent of John Vaillant's The Golden Spruce and Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild, this fascinating portrait of a far-from-ordinary fugitive makes for a page-turning read.

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Editorial Review

“A footloose misfit? A psychic in training for the us military? A private investigator for one of the principals in the Bre-X gold mining scandal? A fugitive fleeing an alleged death contract? A crusader for justice? A deluded thief and burglar? Who was the real John Bjornstrom? Paul McKendrick wanted answers, and his quest to unravel the mysteries of Bjornstrom’s life artfully wends together an improbable historical backstory, recollections of friends and family, and police records to tell the tale of the enigmatic and curious ‘Bushman of the Shuswap.’” —Stephen R. Bown, author of The Company: The Rise and Fall of the Hudson’s Bay Empire

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About the Author

Paul McKendrick

Paul McKendrick lives in Canmore, AB, where he enjoys spending time in the mountains with his family. He holds degrees from UBC and Dalhousie. Most of his career has been spent in renewable energy, and more recently he has become the owner and operator of a running and Nordic ski store with his wife, Kylie.

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