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 colourful background in stirring times it has, as its hero, a character whose career defied both convention and the odds. Smallwood's childhood was hard. His work experience was chequered, 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 equalled 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.