Smallwood

The Unlikely Revolutionary

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About The Book

The extraordinary life of Joey Smallwood is the stuff of fiction—literally: Wayne Johnston’s acclaimed novel, The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, draws heavily on this definitive biography. And no wonder! Set against a colorful background in stirring times it has, as its hero, a character whose career defied both convention and the odds. A one time pig farmer and ardent socialist-turned-union-buster Smallwood is best remembered as the man responsible for bringing Newfoundland into confederation with Canada.

A full ten years before Alaska and Hawaii became the 49th and 50th states of the union a massive British Dominion on the Eastern Seaboard was at a crossroads. Should they join the US as its 49th state? Maintain ties with the British via a British-led commission of government? Should they join Canada? Joey Smallwood, a well-known radio personality, writer and organizer at the time, led a spirited campaign in favor of joining Canada. With 52.3% of a controversial vote marred by sectarian tensions Newfoundlanders voted with Smallwood and the boundaries of Canada as we know them today were established. The first premier of Newfoundland, Smallwood ran Newfoundland virtually unchallenged for 23 years.

Smallwood’s work experience was checkered, at best, but included stints as a contributor to socialist newspapers in New York and London. He was self-taught, and possessed the enthusiasm and wrong-headedness of the autodidact. As Gwyn shows, however, Smallwood possessed ambition of a rare order and utterly unconquerable self-confidence.

These qualities combined with unerring political instinct enabled Smallwood to drag a reluctant Newfoundland into union with Canada, and subsequently to impose his will over compliant colleagues and a vestigial opposition until he governed his island province with the near-absolute power of a despot. Like a despot, too, he countenanced corruption on a scale rarely equaled in Canada. His fall, no less than his rise to power, contains elements of pathos, farce, and pure, farfetched wonderfulness.

Richard Gwyn interviewed Smallwood extensively and enjoyed his subject’s full co-operation. But this is in no sense an authorized biography. It is a balanced, informed, and deeply considered life of a unique political figure.

Skyhorse Publishing, along with our Arcade, Good Books, Sports Publishing, and Yucca imprints, is proud to publish a broad range of biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs. Our list includes biographies on well-known historical figures like Benjamin Franklin, Nelson Mandela, and Alexander Graham Bell, as well as villains from history, such as Heinrich Himmler, John Wayne Gacy, and O. J. Simpson. We have also published survivor stories of World War II, memoirs about overcoming adversity, first-hand tales of adventure, and much more. While not every title we publish becomes a New York Times bestseller or a national bestseller, we are committed to books on subjects that are sometimes overlooked and to authors whose work might not otherwise find a home.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Skyhorse (February 17, 2015)
  • Length: 480 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781629147260

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Raves and Reviews

"A classic work of biography. Gwyn's life of Smallwood is as artfully told and as entertaining as most novels."
— Wayne Johnston, author of The Colony of Unrequited Dreams

"The first probing and informative history of Smallwood and of the Smallwood years . . . written by a first class Canadian writer and thinker . . . An essential account of the high-flying Smallwood years up to his fall from power and the rebirth of democracy in the new Newfoundland of the 1970s."
— Hon. John C. Crosbie, author of No Holds Barred

“A masterpiece of political reporting.”
— Ron Haggart, Saturday Night

“A sparkling review of Newfoundland politics.…Few books match its capacity to hold reader interest.”
— G.R. Elliott, Victoria Times

“The best book I have ever read on a Canadian politician.”
— Charles Lynch, Southam News Service

"A remarkable achievement . . . a book of objectivity, power, and acute observation."
— Michael Cook, St. John's Evening Telegram

"A classic work of biography. Gwyn's life of Smallwood is as artfully told and as entertaining as most novels."
— Wayne Johnston, author of The Colony of Unrequited Dreams

"The first probing and informative history of Smallwood and of the Smallwood years . . . written by a first class Canadian writer and thinker . . . An essential account of the high-flying Smallwood years up to his fall from power and the rebirth of democracy in the new Newfoundland of the 1970s."
— Hon. John C. Crosbie, author of No Holds Barred

“A masterpiece of political reporting.”
— Ron Haggart, Saturday Night

“A sparkling review of Newfoundland politics.…Few books match its capacity to hold reader interest.”
— G.R. Elliott, Victoria Times

“The best book I have ever read on a Canadian politician.”
— Charles Lynch, Southam News Service

"A remarkable achievement . . . a book of objectivity, power, and acute observation."
— Michael Cook, St. John's Evening Telegram

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