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Lorna Poplak

Author, Editor


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Books have always been a constant in Lorna’s life — like Mount Everest or the moon or breakfast. As a child Lorna was an avid reader, one of those kids who use a flashlight to read under the covers until the wee small hours of the morning.

Success as a writer took a while longer. There was some early promise — that’s if poems and stories in high school yearbooks count as promise. Lorna majored in law at university in her native South Africa, but her love of the written word led her to study English literature and take an Honours degree in French. After a diploma in library science, Lorna moved to Canada and into the field of information technology. Then, as now, Lorna enjoyed exploring her new country by car, bike, and on foot.

But writing computer code is no substitute for playing with and playing on words, so Lorna escaped into that other kind of writing. She also became an editor, proofreader, and fact checker. To hone her skills and delve into electronic media she enrolled in a technical communication program.

By this time more successes were rolling in — published work included travel pieces, reviews, user-friendly web content, annual reports, and medical and science writing. But her real passion lay in children’s literature.

So it’s not entirely surprising that when Lorna started writing and workshopping Drop Dead: A Horrible History of Hanging in Canada, she envisioned it for an audience of eight- to twelve-year-olds. The surprise came in the form of a contract to publish the work as adult non-fiction. And the result is a darkly humorous book that illustrates how trial, conviction and punishment operated in Canada’s first century, and examines the relevance of capital punishment today.

Lorna's second non-fiction book, The Don: The Story of Toronto's Infamous Jail, was published by Dundurn in January 2021. The facts behind the jail's location and construction; tales about inmates, guards, governors, gangs, officials, and even a pair of star-crossed lovers — look for all this and more in the saga of the jail’s tumultuous descent from palace to hellhole, and its eventual astonishing transformation.
Available For
Readings and workshops; panels; slideshow presentations
Drop Dead: A Horrible History of Hanging in Canada (Dundurn Press, 2017)
The Don: The Story of Toronto's Infamous Jail (Dundurn Press, 2021)
The Don: Shortlisted for the Legislative Assembly of Ontario's Speaker's Book Award (2021}, Crime Writers of Canada's Brass Knuckles Award for Best Nonfiction Crime Book (2022) and Heritage Toronto Book Award (2022)
Other Memberships
Crime Writers of Canada
Sisters in Crime

720 Bathurst St., Suite 412, Toronto, ON M5S 2R4

Phone: 1-416-515-1559

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