Peter Wildeblood, who has died aged 76 at home in British Columbia, had the distinction of being one of the few English writers whose first book, Against The Law, published in 1955, was in large measure responsible for a dramatic change in the law.
In Wildeblood's case it was the laws on homosexuality. His book - part apologia, part autobiography - dealt with his life up to his release from prison in March 1955. He had by then served a year of an 18-month sentence following his conviction on charges relating to indecency between males. He had told the truth about himself and his homosexuality, and had held his head high while doing so.
Along with Michael Pitt-Rivers and Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, Peter had been charged under a draconian law, which had long been known as a "blackmailer's charter". All three defendants were sent to prison.
In the wake of the trial came a public outcry. The injustice of the law was condemned and the protests intensified with the publication of Against The Law. The book was hailed by CH Rolph in the New Statesman as "the noblest, and wittiest, and most appalling prison book of them all".
Briefed by Peter, Lord Longford and the Earl of Huntingdon led a debate in the Lords, supported by other liberal-minded peers. In 1957 came the Wolfenden Report On Homosexual Offences And Prostitution - to which Pitt-Rivers gave evidence - calling for the decriminalisation of gay sex for over 21-year-olds. In 1967, the law was finally reformed.
Wildeblood was born in Alassio in Italy. His father was a retired engineer from the Indian public works department; his mother was the daughter of a sheep-rancher in Argentina. The sons of his father's first marriage were grown-up and married, and Peter was brought up as an only child, largely in a tiny Elizabethan cottage on the edge of Ashdown Forest. It was here that he first learned his love of plants, gardens and wild flowers.
His exceptional intelligence earned him scholarships to Radley and Trinity College, Oxford, which would otherwise have been beyond his parents' means. His time at Oxford was interrupted by the war, during which he served in the RAF, largely in Southern Rhodesia, but refused to go for a commission.
Back at university in 1945, Peter graduated with second-class honours. His many friends at Oxford included Kenneth Tynan, who was to prove a tower of support a few years later.
After graduation Peter took a job as a hotel waiter in London, while writing at night. He sold articles to Vogue, Printer's Pie and Punch. Sacked by the hotel, he wrote Primrose And The Peanuts, a play about the north Rhodesian groundnuts scheme. It played for two weeks in Camden Town and won excellent reviews in the national press. Meanwhile, he joined the journalistic staff of the Daily Mail - initially working in its Leeds office, and rising within five years to become diplomatic correspondent. Then, in January 1954, came the case.
Once out of jail Peter found himself penniless and jobless. While writing Against The Law he bought a small Soho drinking club, which was frequented by a bizarre mélange of crooks, prostitutes, pimps and members of Peter's own somewhat different social world.
This was to produce A Way Of Life (1956), a fictional autobiography about the club, and then two novels of London life, The Main Chance (1957) and West End People (1958), which, with a brilliant score by Peter Greenwell and memorable performances from Elisabeth Welch and Millicent Martin, was to prove a huge West End success as The Crooked Mile. Another musical followed, but by this time Peter had been drawn into television, where he became a successful and respected writer and producer for Granada TV. His productions included The Younger Generation (1961), The Duke Ellington Show (1963), Blackmail (1966) and Conception Of Murder (1970).
In the early 1970s, Peter accepted an offer from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and moved to Toronto. He became a Canadian citizen, and for the next 16 years wrote and produced a number of successful series.
He then retired to a wooden Edwardian cottage in Victoria, with views across the Juan de Fuca Straights to the snow-clad Olympic Mountains above Seattle. Here he cooked oriental meals, created a minute garden of exotic plants to attract humming-birds, and photographed an amiable raccoon, which liked to sit in the branches of a pear tree.
Sadly, this idyllic retirement was shattered by a disaster even greater than that which had ended his first career. Five years ago a stroke left him speechless and quadriplegic. His brain was unaffected, and after a brief period of near despair - which eased as soon as he could breathe without the ventilator - he learnt, in an astonishingly short time, to communicate by accessing a computer through movements of his chin.
There was no looking back. Peter wrote letters, gave orders, arranged his garden and, though speechless, was as witty and lively as ever. "After a lifetime of one-finger typing," he observed in his first fax, "I think I can master one-chin typing."
Peter Wildeblood will be very much missed, especially by those who cared for him in his last years and who witnessed the man's inner strength.• Peter Wildeblood, journalist and campaigner, born May 19 1923; died November 14 1999
This post completes the series on the Montagu Case.