Eve Lazarus is an award-winning author and journalist who has written on topics ranging from the Stanley Cup riots in 1994 to the tragedy of disappearing Indigenous languages. But Eve is primarily a storyteller. Whether it's telling the stories of historical homes in At Home With History: The Secrets of Greater Vancouver’s Heritage Homes (2007), sharing the exploits of Vancouver's famous and infamous in Sensational Vancouver (2014), or delving through the archives to explore the mysteries of the city's unsolved homicides in Cold Case Vancouver: The City’s Most Baffling Unsolved Murders (2015), Eve is a writer who brings local history to life.
She is most attracted, as she puts it, to the unconventional side of history. Eve's books and blog are full of intrigue, scandal, crime, and fascinating characters from the city's past. In other words, the history that's often left out.
"I became interested in Vancouver’s seedier side when I was researching At Home with History about 12 years ago. It was when I started looking into the stories behind these old houses I found amazing tales of rum runners, bootleggers, brothels, corrupt cops, and murderers," Eve remembers. "I also found out about amazing women that had been passed over by history. They were stories that were a part of Vancouver and they eventually morphed into Sensational Vancouver."
In her most recent book,Cold Case Vancouver, Eve goes even deeper into her exploration of the city's dark past. Delving into the archives, the book tells chilling tales of the city's most perplexing unsolved murders. The book, which is rich with archival photographs of the crime scenes and the people involved, has become a bestseller in the province. Obviously Eve isn't the only one with a taste for unconventional history.
"There seems to be an endless fascination with murder, especially when you see all the crime shows — both true crime and fiction, podcasts and bestselling books. I’ve been fascinated with unsolved murders ever since I first visited the Vancouver Police Museum well over a decade ago," she says.
I’ve written a chapter in each of my first three books about murders filtered through the houses where they happened, but the ones that really intrigued me were the unsolved murders. In Cold Case Vancouver I was able to get into the victimology, the forensics, the police investigation, and the history — or in other words, give the murder a sense of time and place.
Stories of unsolved murders have a particular poignancy, in that they never truly get a proper ending. And, of course, these are more than just stories: these are real events that make up the city's past. And, sadly, the present.
"A lot of unsolved murders are actually resolved, in that police know who did it, but they just can't close the case," explained Eve.
There are a few reasons for this. Sometimes the suspect dies before the trial, sometimes there isn't enough evidence to bring the suspect to trial, or the suspect may already be in jail serving a life sentence for another murder, and the Crown may decide that public interest would not be served by holding another trial. In B.C. it's up to the Crown, not the police, whether or not to pursue a case to trial. The introduction of ViCLAS and scientific improvements, especially in DNA analysis, have given police the tools to solve more murders.
One might be tempted to think that all the research into and writing about Vancouver's darker side might leave the author feeling jaded or disillusioned, but nothing could be further from the truth.
"These stories showed me that Vancouver was more than a beautiful city built on forestry, fisheries, and tourism with streets named after old white men," Eve told us. "It had all these untold and really fascinating stories just waiting to be explored."
Eve has a gift for transmitting this fascination to her readers. Her books and writings really help one to connect with their city. Her stories, both the dark ones and the not-so-dark, tell the real history of the city, allowing readers to get to know their surroundings in a deeper, more personal way. It's changed the way she sees the city, too.
I fell in love with Strathcona when I was writing At Home With History. It’s an area that has done a fabulous job of managing density, retaining heritage and is filled with amazing stories of immigration and survival.
As Vancouver's oldest residential neighbourhood, Strathcona is rich with history and character. There are more heritage homes here than anywhere else in the city, each full of stories. And Eve has a favourite.
"I do have a favourite historical character from Strathcona, she is Nellie Yip Quong, and I included her in my chapter about legendary women in Sensational Vancouver," Eve explained.
Nellie was not Chinese, as her name suggests, but a white Roman Catholic born in New Brunswick. She was educated in New York, where she met and fell in love with Charles Yip, a successful jeweller from Vancouver and the nephew of Yip Sang, who built the Wing Sang Building on East Pender in 1889. (It’s now Bob Rennie’s office and art gallery.) Nellie mastered five different Chinese dialects and fought on behalf of the Chinese. She challenged the justice system and shamed the VGH into moving non-white patients out of the basement. When the White Lunch put up a sign saying "No Indians, Chinese or dogs allowed," Nellie made them take it down. She arranged care for the elderly, brokered adoptions, acted as an interpreter, and became the first public health nurse hired by the Chinese Benevolent Association. She delivered around 500 Chinese babies in her Strathcona home, which is still there at 783 East Pender Street.
For her favourite building, though, you'll have to make a trip downtown to visit the Marine Building, which Eve admires above all for "its stunning architecture and fascinating history." The Marine Building at 355 Burrard St, with its gorgeously detailed Art Deco stylings, is certainly worth a visit next time you're in downtown Vancouver.
Also be sure to vist Eve Lazarus's blog and website: www.evelazarus.com. There you can find information on her books (which you should definitely pick up), as well as all kinds of fascinating historical tidbits about Vancouver's history. And keep your eyes open for her next book!
"I’m currently researching Inspector John Vance, a forensic scientist who worked in Vancouver between 1907 and 1949," says Eve. "He was known as the Sherlock Holmes of Canada because of his ability to solve everything from safe crackings, to hit and runs to murder. His office was in the old morgue and coroner’s court which is now the Vancouver Police Museum."
If you'd like to catch Eve Lazarus live in person, she'll be sharing from her repertoire of dark and sensational stories from Vancouver's past:
- Wed. Sept. 14, 7:00 p.m: Sensational Vancouver: an illustrated presentation about the famous and the infamous, the ordinary and the extraordinary, filtered through the houses in which they lived,West Vancouver Memorial Library
Meet The Photographer: Ricardo Vacas
Ricardo Vacas, owner of the firm Kerp Photography, always showed intense interest in many forms of creative arts. His professional photography career started in his home country, Spain, where he was the official photographer of several music bands, models and clothing brands. He decided to move to Wellington, New Zealand in 2012, knowing his real interest was fashion photography more than any other field. Currently living in Vancouver, Canada, he now combines his fashion, editorial and commercial photography projects with regular trips to Europe and USA.
Eve is doing a great job and writes about those forgotten Vancouver stories I’m interested in. As I grew up with an appreciation of Vancouver’s heritage, her blog posts are the definitely the best source of them. I’d love to support her by buying Cold Case Vancouver – this is the least we all can do!
Ooh, interesting! I wasn’t familiar with her writing. I’ll have to look for Cold Case Vancouver. Thanks so much!