Monday 2 October 2017

Fall/winter 2017/18 open forum

Another season, another reason for Toronto Sun Family members to stay in touch.

Sunday 1 October 2017

At 30 - Crime Flashback's Max Haines

On a sad note, we say farewell to Max Haines, the Toronto Sun's crime writer who turned murder and mayhem into an industry. Mike Strobel came out of retirement to pay homage to gentle Max, who died Sept. 30. Feel free to add your comments.

By Mike Strobel,

Death was Max Haines’ stock in trade. No one could write murder and mayhem like Max.

In his deft hands, death came alive — for 34 years, 28 books and 2,500 wildly popular Crime Flashback columns in the Sun.

Name the demise and Max wrote about it, with a twinkle and a wry touch: Decapitation, poison, strangling, shooting, stabbing, vats of acid, bludgeoning...

Max made murder fun, death droll.

But there is nothing fun or droll about progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP). It is a rare, slow and incurable neurological scourge akin to Parkinson’s disease.

It claimed Max Haines, at age 86, in the wee hours of Saturday at his Etobicoke home.

There never was a newspaperman quite like him. A story-teller without peer.

Funny, but it all started with faulty pantyhose.

Max had sallied forth from Antigonish, Nova Scotia, to conquer the world of women’s undergarments. He set up shop in Toronto. Business was brisk — but brief. One fateful day, Max forgot to check the elastic waistbands on a big shipment of pantyhose leaving his factory.

Soon, a hue and cry arose from women across Canada — and Max looked around for a new career.
His passion was writing true crime stories and in 1972 he walked into the Sun newsroom with a sample, about iconic axe-murder suspect Lizzie Borden. It was the best $15 managing editor Ed Monteith ever spent.

Max, triumphant, returned to his car, where the lovely Marilyn and daughters Susan, Maureen and Eleanor were waiting.

“We all went out for ice cream,” Marilyn tells me Saturday, from her home, as the family gathers.

As any longtime Sun reader knows, Lizzie Borden was just the start. Over three decades, Max’s columns were gathered into books like Bothersome Bodies, Doctors Who Kill, Multiple Murderers II, and Celebrity Murders and Other Nefarious Deeds.

My favourite Max Haines fiends included the snake Bob James, who arranged for a rattler to bite his wife and Englishman John Haigh, who dissolved six victims in sulphuric acid and poured them in his back yard.
The heinous Mr. Haigh did not know gallstones are too gritty even for acid — an oversight that helped hang him.

I asked Max how to commit the perfect murder. (Hypothetically, of course.)

“Move to Texas,” he replied. “Everyone has a gun down there. The good wife always says, ‘Gee I thought it was an intruder and it was dark and I plugged him in the heart.”

“And in Texas, you need two kills to your credit before they take you seriously.”

Max retired in 2006, though Crime Flashback lived on in syndication. The Sun city desk still gets calls from readers demanding his return.

None of those calls, I’ll bet, was from Dennis Melvyn Howe, the presumed killer of Sharin’ Morningstar Keenan. The nine-year-old girl was found strangled in Howe’s rooming house on Brunswick Ave. in 1983, a case that shocked Toronto out of all innocence.

Max never gave up the hunt for Howe, who is now 77 if he’s still in our midst. Max chased lead after lead, kept a mug shot in his wallet and often revisited the case in his column.

“He’s my boogeyman,” Max told me.

Says Marilyn: “Max wanted to find that guy so badly.”

What sweet irony it would be if news of Haines’ death triggers a memory, or stirs a conscience, in someone out there.

What a fitting tribute to Max that would be.

Sunday 26 March 2017

Spring/summer 2017 open forum

Another season, another reason to stay in touch...

All of TSF's reliable tipsters have retired, been fired, been bought out or have sold out so feel free to enlighten us with TSF news that counts.