Dead Reckoning

Dead Reckoning

by Ken McGoogan
  • english-from-canada
  • from-the-north
  • history-politics-current-affairs
  • indigenous

In this magnificent book, Ken McGoogan weaves past and present, the personal and the historical, the scientific and the romantic, into a seamless tale.

In Dead Reckoning, McGoogan reaches back to the 17th century when Arctic adventurers relied largely on speed x time to calculate their location. He conveys the sweep and splendour of Arctic history through accounts of the explorers, the fur traders, and above all the indigenous citizens who have been omitted from previous exploration narratives. Among them is Akaitcho, the Yellowknife chieftain who rescued John Franklin after he lost more than half his men on his first overland expedition. We also meet Tookoolito, an Inuk woman brought to England, who learned English and assisted Charles Francis Hall. There is Hans Hendrik, an Inuk who helped Philadelphia doctor Elisha Kent Kane. Along the way, McGoogan explodes some myths, notably the legend of Sir John Franklin’s heroism. McGoogan asserts that he was a hapless bungler who presided over the worst disaster is the history of Arctic exploration and that his prominence is due to a master spin-doctor — his wife Jane Franklin. The story of Franklin will continue today with the discovery of Franklin’s two lost ships, the Erebus and the Terror.

Dead Reckoning is a finalist for the $10,000 John W. Dafoe Prize.


Ken McGoogan, author

Ken McGoogan is possibly the only historian of the Arctic who has made more than nine trips to the region, including journeys through the fabled Northwest Passage. His dozen published books include four biographies of Arctic explorers. He has won such coveted prizes as: the Pierre Berton Award for History, the University of British Columbia Medal for Canadian Biography, the Canadian Authors’ Association History Award, the Writers’ Trust of Canada Drainie-Taylor Biography Prize, and an American Christopher Award.


  • This is not the Canadian history that we learned in school. But it is a far more nuanced and objective view of Indigenous people in North America. For that reason alone, McGoogan’s book deserves wide readership in our country. But "Dead Reckoning" also deserves to be read because it is so enthralling. - The Georgia Straight
  • This book is a masterpiece, settling the standard for future works on Arctic exploration. - Victoria Times Colonist
  • Ken McGoogan is not just a journalist writing about Canada’s north, he is the ultimate guide to our last frontier. This is his natural habitat – and it shows. A must read. - Peter C. Newman
  • Finally! A page turning book about Arctic exploration that puts the heroism and leadership of indigenous people at the centre of the story. - Bob Rae

Rights Holder

Rights Holder: Beverley Slopen Literary Agency



rights available: World, excl. English (Canada)

Additional Information

age range: General

number of pages: 438

publication date: 09/26/2017

Original language of pub: English

Materials Available: finished book