July 4, 2012

What every journalist dreams about: Space, time, dogged researchers!

Posted by WARREN PERLEY – Editor, BestStory.ca
Writing from Montreal

When I was working as a full-time journalist in major media companies in the 1970s and ’80s, friends outside the business used to ask me how I came up with story ideas. The truth is that the stories usually chose me; rather than the other way around. What I mean is that when “hard news” broke, the priority was to cover it for the next day’s newspapers.

It was the same at all the media companies where I worked – The Canadian Press, The Montreal Star, The Gazette, United Press Canada and United Press International. Writing feature stories was a luxury for which most of us rarely had time. And when we did, the features weren’t all that long, perhaps 1,500 to 2,000 words, which with a few photos would fill most, or all, of a broadsheet page.

So when I was sent by The Gazette to write a story about Det.-Sgt. Albert Lisacek taking his retirement from the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) in 1981, it was a relatively short story of several hundred words, which could not possibly do justice to his long, colorful career. Even in those days – before advertising revenue had shrunk – the “news hole” at most papers was tight and predicated on the number of ads in that day’s issue.

I dreamed of one day writing Albert’s life story, which 30 years ago – before the advent of the Internet – could only have been done by means of a book. But then a book publisher would likely only have agreed to such a venture if he/she believed it could be a commercial success, meaning enough copies of the book could be sold to justify the time and expense of putting it together.

Well, along came the Internet in the early 1990s, and, since April 2012, BestStory.ca! Would “Canada’s toughest cop”, who turns 79 on July 13, 2012, be willing to tell his stories to me and the public more than 30 years after his retirement?

A few conversations with Albert, et voila, we had the real stories behind the most spectacular cops’n’robbers and terrorist headlines in Montreal’s history – over 17,000 words and 66 photos and 2 illustrations. Aside from having no space restrictions on what I write for BestStory.ca, I also have no editor telling me that Albert’s language might be too salty or the truth too raw for the average reader. So what you get here is Albert Unleashed which, as anyone who has followed his career will attest, can be blunt. But as the New Testament says, “...the truth will set you free.”

In terms of the truth Albert related to me, I got more than I bargained for. Of course, I knew from my days as a journalist that he had been involved in hunting down the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) terrorists Paul Rose, his brother Jacques Rose and Francis Simard in 1970.

I also knew he was present when infamous killer and bank robber Richard Blass, known as “The Cat”, was shot dead by police in the early morning hours of January 24, 1975. But now, more than 37 years later, Albert revealed what really happened in the moments before Blass died in a hail of police bullets.

Of course, one of the reasons so much information came out of my interviews with Albert is because for the first time in my journalism career I had the luxury of having two crack researchers available who dug up background that has added rich detail and context to the story I wrote. Their background information allowed me to ask the right questions of Albert during our many hours of conversations, which stretched over more than a month.

One of the researchers is Karen Boor, who is a full-time graphic designer responsible for the photo selection and layout of articles on BestStory.ca. Karen also happens to be very curious and adept at ferreting out details on the Internet.

My other researcher was Luc Paquette, who himself is mentioned in the story as a young boy growing up in the Laurentian mountains community of Lac des Écorces, where Albert spent his summers between 1963 and 2004.

Luc, who works for a chartered accountant, is currently writing a history of Lac des Écorces – founded about a century ago. He first did research on Albert for his book. When he found out I was writing a story, he offered to share his research about the detective.

So my hat goes off to Karen and Luc for their help, without which my article would not have been nearly as interesting or as complete.

Some of the other facts that I was surprised to learn in writing Albert’s story was his connection to infamous bank robber Machine Gun Molly and Jacques Mesrine, Public Enemy No. 1 in France.

This is a real-life story of cops and criminals. I hope it will help you understand not only what Albert Lisacek did as a cop, but why he did it – the story behind the legend!

[See teaser below]

Published: JULY 2012
Little Albert’s whacky world of bullets, beatings and bad guys

Writing from Montreal

It’s no fun losing your testicles in a shootout with Canada’s toughest cop. But then again, Det.-Sgt. Albert Lisacek was never known as a guy with a sense of humour during his 25 years with the Sûreté du Québec. Now the outspoken Lisacek tells the real story of cops’n’robbers in the ’60s and ’70s, including what happened just before infamous killer Richard Blass was shot dead by police, the last moments of Machine Gun Molly and his near-death experience with Jacques Mesrine, Public Enemy No. 1 in France.

17,127 Words | 66 Photos | 2 Illustrations

BUY THIS STORY Recommend to a Friend

Our art director, Rodney Hall, has put together a short video to promote the story on YouTube. Please have a look and pass it on to anyone who appreciates a real-life story about cops’n’robbers: