In his years as prime minster and leader of the Conservative Party, John Diefenbaker’s political reputation rested largely on the legendary skills he had developed in his career as a brilliant courtroom lawyer. And Diefenbaker himself never forgot those earlier times – long after he moved to Ottawa and became known to the nation as “The Man from Prince Albert,” he delighted in telling stories about the many people he saved from the gallows during his years as a criminal lawyer in rural Saskatchewan.
In Diefenbaker for the Defence, Garrett and Kevin Wilson examine Diefenbaker’s legal career from 1919 until his winning of the Conservative Party leadership in 1956. Using Diefenbaker’s personal papers and the records of his most famous trials, they capture the personality of the man himself – aggressive and single-minded – while also painting a vivid picture of the rural communities where Diefenbaker was a leading and somewhat unusual figure. In taut and colourful prose, the book describes many of Diefenbaker’s trials and offers a fascinating glimpse into the seamier side of life in these decades. Several of his clients – the ones who were acquitted and the ones who were convicted – are as memorable as their lawyer.
Diefenbaker for the Defence is an engrossing portrait of an insecure, ambitious, and not always scrupulous young man who invented a personality, and a myth, to make it to the top.