Peter Johnston, retired ambassador, tells a story of five years in the Canadian Army in the Second World War, much of them spent as a sergeant in counter-intelligence, including close to two years rounding up amateur spies and other nasties in Italy. He writes of later years in the Canadian foreign service, some of them working with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Security Service and many of them engaged in examining assessments of intelligence during the Cold War, entailing close contacts with the British and American intelligence authorities. He also writes of his life as an ambassador in Indonesia and of his subsequent adventures as an elections monitor in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Angola.
Reviewing Johnston's book in the November issue of the Rockcliff News,
Charles King, one-time Chief of the Ottawa Bureau of Southam News Services
and former Associate Editor of the Ottawa Citizen, spoke of the author as ""a
snoop with a difference"", as ""an unconventional outsider looking in on the
refinements of a diplomatic life"", as ""an intelligence officer in the dim,
secret world of counter-espionage"" who, ""in all his adventures was sustained
by an impish sense of the ridiculous nature of his role"".
Similar reactions were expressed in Bout de Papier, the quarterly journal of
the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers. David Peel, retired
ambassador and Inspector General of the Canadian Security and Intelligence
Service 1994-98, began his review by expressing his ""big disappointment, for
which you should prepare yourself, when you get to page 164 of this little
book: it ends. Far too soon."" Among Peel's comments on Johnston's
experiences in the Second World War, he noted that, ""he makes his adventures
in the long advance of the Canadians up the boot of Italy sound funny,
ridiculous and touching but they give a vivid picture of war and the men who
fought in it"". On his life as a diplomat and civil servant, Peel suggested
that ""His age and experience gave him a perspective that other newcomers
lacked and his stories and comments on the situations and people he
encountered are, while generally kind, great fun and sometimes scathing-the
sort of thing we all wish we'd had the courage to say at the time"". Peel
concluded his summary of the book's contents by referring back to his
opening remark, that ""at page 164, that's just how I felt about his
book-reluctant to let go"".
About The Estate of Peter Johnston
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Published February 26, 2007
Biographies & Memoirs.