Alumni Book Nook: Dennis Gruending (BA’70, ARTS’84)

Ottawa-based writer Dennis Gruending is the author of "A Communist for the RCMP: The Uncovered Story of a Social Movement Informant"

University of Saskatchewan (USask) graduate Dennis Gruending (BA’70, ARTS’84), a former Member of Parliament, newspaper reporter, and CBC host, is the author of nine books. His latest book is A Communist for the RCMP: The Uncovered Story of a Social Movement Informant, which will be released by Between the Lines Books on June 11, 2024.

Gruending, who currently lives in Ottawa, studied English as an undergraduate student in USask’s College of Arts and Science. He later earned a master’s degree in journalism at Carleton University and received a Distinguished Alumni award from St. Thomas More College. He is a member of The Writers’ Union of Canada and the Canadian Association of Former Parliamentarians.

Gruending has written biographies about well-known Canadians Emmett Hall—a Supreme Court judge known as the father of medicare—and former Saskatchewan premier Allan Blakeney. His anthology Great Canadian Speeches was a bestseller. His book Speeches That Changed Canada presented and analyzed important speeches from 11 of Canada’s greatest political orators. Gruending continues to author the blogs Great Canadian Speeches and Pulpit and Politics.

What is the focus of your new book?

This book tells the true story of an undercover civilian informant for the RCMP Security Service over a span of 35 years, between 1941 and 1976. He infiltrated the Communist Party, first in Calgary and later in Regina, but he also informed on hundreds of non-communist progressives in a variety of social movements.

What inspired you to write this book?

It is extremely rare for an RCMP informant to go public. They are warned never to keep notes about their handlers or the people upon who they are asked to inform. This person, now long deceased, ignored those warnings, and in 2019 an elderly acquaintance of his offered me a treasure trove of papers. I created a biographical profile combined with a good deal of contextual research about the Cold War and the methods of RCMP surveillance.

Did your education at USask play a role in researching and/or writing this book? If so, how?

Yes. I studied English literature at the University of Saskatchewan. I later used my writing and research skills to work as a reporter for three Canadian newspapers, as a broadcaster for the CBC, and as a book writer.

What are five adjectives that you would use to describe your book?

Mysterious, probing, biographical, historical, and political.

Why would you recommend your book to USask alumni?

This book is unique in telling the story of an undercover informant for the RCMP who spent much of his career in Regina. He informed upon not only members of the Communist Party, but also hundreds of people in the labour, farm, Indigenous, peace, and civil liberties movements, not to mention university professors and students. Many of the people named in the book will be familiar to USask alumni.