It was the trial of the century. Colin Thatcher, millionaire rancher, son of a premier, cabinet minister in his own right, charged with the brutal slaying of his ex-wife JoAnn. A fifteen-month police investigation, capped by a wire-tapped recording of the accused in conversation with his accomplice. A courtroom battle with the outcome uncertain to the very end. But the jury finally discarded Thatcher’s credo – “Deny, Deny, Deny” – and convicted the politician. The sentence – life imprisonment without eligibility for parole for twenty-five years.
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.
At the funeral of a dear friend – local MLA and cabinet member, Ben Forsyth – young lawyer Oxford LaCoste is approached by the Saskatchewan government to recover fifteen million dollars that disappeared with the minister’s sudden death. Danger arises when Oxford, also acting as the executor for the estate, is left unbelievable details of a political corruption involving bribery, numbered accounts, and murder. Before long, LaCoste must decide whether revealing the truth is a risk worth taking when his investigation turns into a race to stay alive.
“Buffalo!” The old horseman struggled to his feet and boldly began his toast with glass held high, his weather-worn visage conspicuous in the room full of young men. Then “BUFFALO,” this time more quietly. Then, after a long pause, “buffalo,” almost in a whisper…
Thus Garrett Wilson introduces his epic account of the 1870s, a decade that saw unprecedented changes come to the Great Plains of North America: famine, fire and pestilence – the disappearance of the buffalo – the last stand of the Sioux and and the Métis – the Boundary Survey and the “March West” of the North-West Mounted Police – men like Dumont, Walsh, Macleod and Sitting Bull – all encompassed within a brief 10 years, which was the disappearance of the Old West, and the birth of a new society.
Frontier Farewell won the 2007 Saskatchewan Book Awards prize for Scholarly Writing and was described by a prominent academic reviewer as “making a significant contribution to scholarship on the history of the Canadian West.”
In 2014, the University of Regina Press published a second edition of Frontier Farewell.
In The Temple of The Rain God is a personal narrative of the dramatic first fifty years of Saskatchewan history, from immigration, homesteading, politics, business, the agony of the Depression of the 1930s and the farm debt crisis, to the Second World War and recovery, all told through the eyes of Charles Wilson, Garrett’s father. “Irish Charlie” Wilson arrived in the West in 1905, the year of Saskatchewan’s birth, and experienced all the hardship, success, and suffering that the province enjoyed and endured on its path to where it stands today as one of the
most favoured in Canada.
Charles Wilson did it all, from farm labourer to grain buyer to home-steader to business to politics. He established himself as the pre-eminent farm loan agent in Saskatchewan and then converted to spokesman for the farmers who had become deeply indebted because of the failure of crops and prices in the 1930s. Charles served from 1936 to 1943 as farmer/debtor commissioner on the Board of Review established under the Farmers’ Creditors Arrangement Act, an almost forgotten agency that sliced away nearly half of Saskatchewan farm debt.
Much of Charles’ story is told in his own words with unusual authenticity and colour. Through his close association with Victoria Trust & Savings Company, the rise, fall and recovery of Saskatchewan’s agricultural sector is seen through the vantage point of an Ontario based farm lender.
In The Temple of The Rain God recounts how governments in Ottawa and Regina struggled to save western agriculture from the crushing mountain of farm debt that was threatening to empty out the land so recently settled.
Born in the dust bowl of the Great Depression, Garrett Wilson, Q.C. has been part of many of the significant events that shaped Saskatchewan. A distinguished lawyer turned award-winning historian and best-selling author, he was active in many of the political events of his time. From J.G. (Jimmy) Gardiner to Premier Ross Thatcher, from Lester Pearson to Pierre Trudeau to Lynda Haverstock, Garrett was involved with them all, working to advance the interests of some and struggling against the politics of others.
Outlier: Life, Law and Politics in the West is full of astute personal insights, intriguing anecdotes about growing up during the drought and depression of the 1930s and first-hand accounts of political and legal life. Garrett Wilson’s entertaining and intimate portrait of Saskatchewan, its politics and its people imbues a sense of place that speaks to anyone interested in the province.
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