Dossier of V.M. Straka

Compiled by J. W. Dominguez

Calais Riot
The Calais Riot of 1912 refers to a violent uprising of striking workers at an ammunition factory owned by Compagnie Générale Bouchard. It resulted in the deaths of four factory managers and fifteen employees of the Lessard detective agency, which had been hired for security by factory owner Hermès Bouchard. Fifty-seven strikers were arrested and jailed. Many of the workers later confessed that they had no specific grievances, but instead had been drunk and provoked to violence by an anarchist agitator among them.

An oral history of the event was compiled in 1928 by labor activist Jerome Verdier
, though the manuscript was not discovered until 1964. Verdier argued that the riot had in fact been a massacre—that the demonstration had been peaceful until police and Lessard detectives fired into the crowd. Later, they rounded up and executed the injured. Verdier’s sources were onlookers who said they had been threatened by authorities and would speak only anonymously. An account similar to Verdier’s is hinted at in V. M. Straka’s 1949 novel Ship of Theseus; the book’s editor suggested that this was the real reason for Straka’s celebrated rejection of the Bouchard Prize in September 1912. No other evidence for this version of events has ever been found, though, and it is widely believed to be false.