Thursday, October 17, 2013

My Work Life Chronicled In A Novel

A friend and former work colleague, now author, Stephen Lonsdale informed me through Facebook that his newest novel Inside Looking Out was now available on (It's currently on sale for only $9.96, a bit cheaper than the low price I paid a couple of weeks ago).

While I have posted a lot of information about ancestors, I have shied away from posting the story of me. As a genealogist, I have trained myself to look for and analyze records left by and about family members. A fictional novel is not the place to seek out information. 

But now, Stephen's novel Inside Looking Out tells the stories of the early years of my professional career with the provincial government in Ontario, Canada. Inside Looking Out is the author's semi-autobiographical account of his entry into the world of Corrections, the significant impacts that world had on his life, and the winding journey that brought him to where he is today. Inside Looking Out chronicles the first few years of my public service career as I shared many parts of Stephen's journey and was present for some of the frightening, even traumatic, events that are recounted.

I began my career as a correctional officer. It wasn't my first choice of jobs and I knew it was a disappointment to my parents. Having been the first of my family to graduate from university, my parents had much higher expectations than to brag about their son the jail guard. But I needed a job as the one I had at the time was winding down. I had my sights set on becoming a probation officer, a position that required the university credential. In order to access the probation jobs, I needed to get a position, any position, in the Corrections department. My late wife Karen and I had only been married two years but had purchased our first house and I needed a secure job to make the mortgage payments. The position paid $6.67 per hour plus benefits to start. Karen and I were thrilled with our good fortune. What I didn't know is that I got the job as a Correctional Officer in one of the most dangerous institutions in Canada! And that is where I met Stephen Lonsdale.

Although the names of the people have been changed in Inside Looking Out, I recognized many of the characters. I know the real names. For example, David Evans, the novel's protagonist, was hired to be a Correctional Officer by the institution's administrator Iain Wallace, accurately described as a bombastic, old Scotsman. That same administrator hired me after first confirming that based on my name, I was also Scottish. You can see how family history played a key role in my life.

I was present and witnessed many of the events that the author writes about in Inside Looking Out. Those of us who shared in those incidents and worked in that institution at that time know the true identities of the novel's characters and we can attest to the accuracy of the stories told. It was a tough work life and one that I wasn't permitted to speak about at home because it frightened my wife to know about the environment I left our happy home to work in each day.

I worked hard in my Corrections career and over the course of time, I was eventually promoted to the position of Superintendent - the equivalent of a Warden in the United States or a Governor in the United Kingdom. I left Corrections many years ago for family reasons and thoroughly enjoyed working in other areas of the provincial government. But, I am most proud of leading the redesign and introduction of a new (and still current) uniform worn by the province's Correctional Officers. I was also the first to wear a Superintendent's uniform in the history of the province (as far as I know).

If you are looking for a really good book to read, I recommend going over to and doing a search for Stephen Lonsdale to purchase Inside Looking Out or one of Stephen's other books like Badon. You may also want to look differently at novels in the future when you are researching your family history. I know I will. 

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