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The Untold Story of John Rae, the Arctic Adventurer Who Discovered the Fate of Franklin. HarperCollins Canada, Bantam/ Transworld/Bantam U.K., Carroll & Graf U.S., 2001.

Fatal Passage tells the story of John Rae, an unsung Arctic fur-trader who solved the two great mysteries of nineteenth-century Arctic exploration. Rae discovered both the final link in the Northwest Passage and the fate of the lost expedition of Sir John Franklin, whose final survivors resorted to cannibalism.  Because he revealed that truth to Victorian England, Rae was vilified and virtually erased from history.

A national bestseller, Fatal Passage won the Writers’ Trust of Canada Drainie-Taylor Biography Prize, the Canadian Authors’ Association Lela Common Award for Canadian History, the Grant MacEwan Author’s Award, and an American Christopher Award for a work of artistic excellence that “affirms the highest values of the human spirit.” PTV Productions turned the book into a docudrama, called Passage, which aired on BBC and History Channel. 

". . . delightful reading.”
Andrea Barrett

". . . compulsively readable . . . ”
Quill & Quire

“. . . one of the most important books written on Canadian history in recent years”
Times Colonist (Victoria)

Interview with Linda Richards, January Magazine (link)

Review and interview by Paul van Peenen (link)

More on Fatal Passage...

Interview with Linda Richards, January Magazine:
“It has all of the earmarks of a gripping novel: exploration, adventure, tragedy and triumph. Even an earnest hero, a mystery and a villain. In fact, when Ken McGoogan came upon the story of Arctic adventurer John Rae, his first thought was for fiction. The further he delved into the perplexing story, however, the more important he thought it was. Writing it as fiction, McGoogan felt, would make the tale less credible. "So I set aside the novel project to tell the true story: to set the record straight." The story is almost beyond belief. According to McGoogan, John Rae is the actual discoverer of the final link of the Northwest Passage, not Sir John Franklin as the history books have always reported . . ."

Interview with Paul Barnsley, Aboriginal Multi-Media Society:
“In Fatal Passage, author Ken McGoogan takes on Canada's image of itself as he seeks to correct historical inaccuracies and expose the attitudes that created them. The story centres on the
life of John Rae, a Hudson's Bay Co. doctor turned Arctic explorer. McGoogan clearly see his protagonist as a figure of heroic proportions who has been denied his rightful place in history, in part, because he found that Indigenous methods of coping in the bush were superior to methods used by Europeans."

Review and interview by Paul van Peenen: “There is a great irony in the relationship between John Rae and Sir John Franklin. Their names will forever remain synonymous with the history of Arctic exploration, but Ken McGoogan’s new book Fatal Passage attempts to set the record straight. Both men were explorers, Rae with the Hudson’s Bay Company and Franklin with the Royal Navy — but there the similarity ends. Franklin, the consummate British officer, refused to adapt to proven Arctic survival techniques and it cost him his life along with the lives of 128 officers and men. Rae readily accepted and adapted to wearing fur clothing and using proven travel methods of the Inuit and Indians he lived and worked with . . .” (continued)

Other reviews:
“ . . . delightful reading.”
Andrea Barrett

“ . . . compulsively readable . . .”
 Quill and Quire

“. . . one of the most important books written on Canadian history in recent years”
Times Colonist (Victoria)

See also The Arctic Journals of John Rae and John Rae's Arctic Correspondence, which Ken introduces

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Before turning mainly to books about arctic exploration and Canadian history, Ken McGoogan worked for two decades as a journalist at major dailies in Toronto, Calgary, and Montreal. He teaches creative nonfiction writing through the University of Toronto and in the MFA program at King’s College in Halifax. Ken served as chair of the Public Lending Right Commission, has written recently for Canada’s History, Canadian Geographic, and Maclean’s, and sails with Adventure Canada as a resource historian. Based in Toronto, he has given talks and presentations across Canada, from Dawson City to Dartmouth, and in places as different as Edinburgh, Melbourne, and Hobart.