This book has been a Malaysian publishing sensation. It was an instant bestseller. In launching its Malay language edition, the Raja Muda of Perak, Raja Dr Nazrin Shah, was moved to tears by remembrance of how much Tun [Dr] Ismail had contributed to the nation, and how much more still needed to be done.
Tun Dr Ismail bin Dato Haji Abdul Rahman is a worthy subject for a political biography. After completing a medical degree in Australia, he became a Johor state councillor in 1948, joined the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) in 1951, and then in 1953 became party representative in the Federal Legislative Council with portfolio responsibilities for Lands, Mines, and Communications. He continued to hold ministerial responsibilities thereafter through to [his] retirement in 1967. At the same time, he helped shape the UMNO independence struggle, was returned in the first national election in 1955, then became the first ambassador to the United States and the United Nations for over twelve months after independence in 1957. Returning to Malaya, he took on the External Affairs portfolio; then in November 1960 he began a long association with security issues, first as minister of a new internal security ministry, then from February 1962, in home affairs. Forced to retire by ill health, he joined the boards of several multinationals, and gave speeches on the neutralization of Southeast Asia.
Recalled to government after the tragic racial riots of May 13, 1969, he held leading positions during emergency rule in both the National Operations Council and the Cabinet, and became Deputy Prime Minister in September 1970. Seemingly destined for Malaysia's highest political office, he was struck down by a heart attack in August 1973. It helps the biographer's cause that apart from being a statesman, Tun [Dr] Ismail led a colourful and adventurous life. He was born into politics as a member of the Johor aristocracy. His father was the state treasurer of Johor, then first president of the Malayan Senate, and three brothers all had important political roles. He was brought up in a multiracial environment, establishing close friendships with the Kuok and Puthucheary families, which lasted a lifetime. A grandmother was half-Chinese, and his family adopted nine Chinese girls (a common practice in well-off Malay families in those days).