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book cover of A Brilliant and Appalling Life

A Brilliant and Appalling Life

The Story of Criminal Lawyer Ross Mackay
A non fiction book by

The colourful - and often questionable - life of one of Toronto's leading criminal lawyers

In two separate trials in Toronto courtrooms in the spring of 1962, two men were convicted of two different murders. Their names were Arthur Lucas and Ronald Turpin, and when they were hanged back to back on the gallows at the Don Jail, they entered into history as the last men whom Canada executed.

The same criminal lawyer defended both Lucas and Turpin at their dramatic trials. His name was Ross MacKay, just thirty years old and appearing in his first two murder cases. Devastated by the hangings, driven to alcoholism, he endured disbarment, homelessness, and a drug charge of his own before he rallied to become a criminal lawyer of the top rank in both trial and appeal work.

MacKay never looked like a man pointed toward a life of endless travail. He was movie-star handsome, intelligent, charming and funny, irresistible to women and a man's man who played cards till the sun came up - often with his clients, many of whom became friends. These attributes weren't always enough to shield him from his own flaws and from the burdens heaped on him by his criminal clients.

Yet each time MacKay was knocked flat by events, he rallied. His was a story of redemption and, as told in this compelling book, it is a story that is both shocking and inspirational.


Used availability for Jack Batten's A Brilliant and Appalling Life

Hardback Editions

March 2005 : Canada Hardback

Title: A Brilliant and Appalling Life: The Story of Criminal Lawyer Ross Mackay
Author(s): Jack Batten
ISBN: 0-7710-1093-1 / 978-0-7710-1093-4 (Canada edition)
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Availability: Amazon