The newest genre in the frantic world of book publishing – books by journalists and about journalism – has already been dubbed ‘hack-lit’… So what is hack-lit? It is a brilliant concept… Garth Gibbs, The Independent
The (very) best of Waterhouse
Keith Waterhouse’s literary executors have chosen a ‘macro’ publishing house to revisit, revise, re-edit and republish the author’s three personal favourites among his considerable literary output.
They are Waterhouse on Newspaper Style and The Theory And Practice of Lunch and The Theory And Practice of Travel. Click here for the Waterhouse page.
His books join Fleet Street classics by authors including Cassandra (Bill Connor), Hugh Cudlipp, Bob Clarke, Anthony Delano, Colin Dunne, Geoffrey Goodman, Liz Hodgkinson, Vincent Mulchrone, Harry Procter, Murray Sayle, Geoffrey Seed, Justin Stares, Ian Skidmore, Walter Schwarz (see this page) and Arnie Wilson.
Journalist and writer Eric Silver was based in Jerusalem for nearly forty
years. He first went to cover Israel for the Guardian in 1967 in the aftermath of the Six-Day War, and then in
1972 he was sent to Jerusalem
to be staff correspondent for the Guardian
and the Observer. Mostly in Israel from
1967-2008, Eric Silver was one of the few foreign journalists to cover the
region throughout this significant period in its history. This collection of
his work gives a rich insight into the history of the time offering a unique
perspective on what it was like for both Israelis and Palestinians living
there. It provides at once an accurate and reliable guide to the complexities
of Israeli politics, and an engaging personal voice on his world and the
ongoing drama of life in Israel.
His first story as a foreign correspondent in 1972
was the Lod massacre, followed by the Munich
Olympic attack and the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Over the years he covered the
Begin premiership, peace with Egypt
and Jordan, two Rabin
administrations culminating in the assassination, Arafat and the beginnings of
a Palestinian State,
the first Netanyahu administration, the settlers and the 2005 disengagement
from Gaza, and
the rise of Hamas and the second Lebanon War.
his death in 2008 the Independent
Silver was a leading Anglo-Israeli journalist in Israel, and one of the most
insightful commentators on Israeli politics since the foundation of the state.’
By Eric Silver, Dateline: Jerusalem was published by Revel Barker
Publishing at £15.99. It is available on-line from BookDepository
(with free postage, worldwide), from amazon-uk
& Noble, and all the major retailers, or from any half-decent high
Read a review of the book by Harriet Sherwood, current Jerusalem correspondent of the Guardian, here.
In London Eric was regarded as too
supportive of Israel; in Jerusalem not enough, says Sunanda
K Datta-Ray in the Pioneer.
Jenni Frazer's review in the Jewish Chronicle can be found here
The Ideal Occupation, by Walter Schwarz
Publisher’s notes – Revel Barker
Review – Roy Greenslade
Review – Alan Dean
Review – Nick Cowans (amazon)
The ideal occupation
By Revel Barker
One day when Whispering Smith, who taught history, failed to turn up, the headmaster came in to entertain us instead. He knew sod-all about history so asked us, in a pseudo-caring, headmasterly sort of way, what we intended to do when we left school.
One kid said he fancied being a policeman and the head went apoplectic. ‘If that’s all you want to do with your life you should have given your place at grammar school to somebody who could make proper use of it,’ he sneered (no other word for it).
Callow youth though I was, I remember thinking, what an arse. Why didn’t he tell the boy to study science and go for forensics (Murder Bag – Supt Lockhart, Raymond Francis – was our favourite TV programme at the time), or to take the arts route, study law and become a prosecuting inspector – we had them, in those days?
When the history teacher returned he said: ‘So, Barker, you think you’ll be a journalist...’ It was a no-brainer for me; I was already writing for the local weekly and had had a good story (across two columns) on Page One the previous week. Got it from the headmaster’s secretary, no less.
‘What sort of journalism do you have in mind?’
I read the Daily Mirror and the Guardian every morning, so I thought I wouldn’t mind doing politics.
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘I suppose you might become a political correspondent, although God knows, you’ll never be a diplomatic one.’
(Years later, when I became foreign editor and was ploughing the embassy beat, among others, I thought of dropping him a line. But he’d left the school for pastures unknown, and he was called Smith…)
What prompts this reminiscence from days of yore is The Ideal Occupation, a new book by Walter Schwarz who spent most of his life as a foreign corr for the Guardian.
When he was 13 he had to write an essay called… The Ideal Occupation. After dismissing ‘rich bank manager’ on one hand and ‘quiet life with lots of free time’ on the other, he opted for ‘a life of travel, excitement, freedom: in short a journalist’. He had the foresight to add that he didn’t want to be controlled in an office by an editor and plagued by deadlines, but ‘to visit places (ordinary places), and talk to people (ordinary people), and build up my articles from that.’
His teacher wrote at the bottom: ‘Pleasantly written. An interesting ambition, not easily realised.’
Decades later, as the Guardian man in Nigeria (1964-67), Israel (1970-72), India (1972-75) and France and Germany (1975-84), visiting ordinary places and talking to ordinary people, with or without a notebook in his hand, life as a reporter was as much fun as he had imagined.
When one talks, as we used to do, in the pub, about what brought individual members of this unlikely gallimaufry into the Great Game, the most common answer is that we looked around, maybe even listened to the uninspiring advice of the careers master (who, personally, hadn’t been able to think of anything beyond teaching), and finally realised that journalism was the only thing we could do.
Certainly in Walter’s case it’s difficult to imagine what else he could have done as a career, except write (although at Oxford he thought that if he got a First, which he didn’t, he might have become ‘an academic’) – because when he wasn’t filing for the Oxford Mail, the Evening Standard, Jewish Observer, Spectator, West Africa magazine, Newsweek and eventually fulltime for the Guardian, he was maintaining a diary and writing letters home.
And one is forced to ask, how many journalists do we know who actually keep a diary? And how many write regular letters home? Most of them write hardly anything, even for the paper, unless there’s a promise upfront of money.
But Walter had the enormous benefit of the diaries and collected family letters, in addition to his cuttings books, when he sat down to type his autobiography.
It makes for a great read. Not only because it was a fascinating life, but because we are privy to his thoughts while he was living it.
The Ideal Occupation by Walter Schwarz is published by Revel Barker Publishing at £9.99 and is available (with free delivery worldwide) from Book Depository, or from Waterstones on-line or amazon and in the US (with a discount) from Barnes & Noble, amazon.com. Or on order from any half-decent bookshop.
Stuff that dramas are made on
By Alan Dean
In the introduction to his book The Ideal Occupation, Walter Schwarz, a former foreign correspondent for the Guardian, muses that his reports from Nigeria, Israel, India and France might have mattered less if he had worked in the digital age where everyone has instant access to news, comment and background.
That goes for us all. But Schwarz, without doubt, would have succeeded as a blogger (a hack with an HTML attitude) if only because of his meticulously kept diary – the Pepys syndrome developed as a teenage boy. And it is those diary entries that have helped him go beyond the average I-was-there anecdotes that are often embellished with age in Fleet Street hackiography (or should that be FleetLit?)
I missed the civil war in breakaway Biafra (I was caught up with the Six-Day War in Israel) but Schwarz was there with his pen, diary and Cable & Wireless credit card: he landed up in a Nigerian jail and was later deported. His description of that period benefits from having kept up with his diary entries.
I first met Schwarz, an erudite character, a couple of years later at a kosher restaurant in Mea Shearim, one of the oldest Jewish neighbourhoods in Jerusalem if memory serves: alas, I did not keep a detailed diary. Schwarz, who first went to Israel in the late fifties on a retainer for the Jewish Observer, had returned to Jerusalem in the seventies as a staffer for the Guardian, but he was often mistrusted by the Israelis because of his longstanding friendship with several Israeli Arabs.
I know how he must have felt: I was once hauled over the coals by ‘the authorities’ and berated by the local Daily Mirror stringer, Ted Levite, for my supposed sympathetic coverage of an Israeli Arab at one of the first post-Six Day War trials for alleged terrorist activities, written for the Observer Foreign News Service: it would have been worse for Schwarz at that time because he was Jewish.
Strangely, Schwarz does not talk much of the uber-pro Israel coverage that came from most of the foreign press corps based in Israel in the somewhat gung-ho period between the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War, but he does single out the BBC’s Michael Elkins for his ‘heroic tones’ in reporting.
It was after reading the chapter on his Israel experiences in the seventies that I went back to the earlier chapters on Schwarz’s childhood and his early days as a member of a family that had escaped to London from Vienna just before World War Two. Maybe that’s how The Ideal Occupation should be read, and it should be read.
Methinks there’s a decent BBC 4 mini-drama series in the making.
The foreign correspondent’s dilemma
By Roy Greenslade
‘Well, now, let's see, there's a riot in Bihar. Worth a quick trip?’
‘Perhaps. But floods in Bangladesh could be more dramatic.’
‘But then, Bhutto's in trouble again: might do something drastic at any moment. Could drive up to 'Pindi and have a look. Good chance to take the car out of India and renew its customs licence.’
‘Well, yes, but going out of town would mean missing the foreign ministry briefing – it seems they might have something to say for once.’
That is a one-man morning ‘news conference’ related in the just-published book by former Guardian foreign correspondent Walter Schwarz.
It illustrates the dilemma facing a man assigned to cover the sub-continent from his New Delhi flat. It also casts a light on the nature of news values. How do we choose what to report?
That's just one of the virtues of reading Schwarz's memoirs, a reporter who plied his trade, as I noted last month, during the days when copy was dictated over a crackly phone or transmitted by telex.
Aside from his Indian period, Schwarz's The Ideal Occupation tells of his adventures in Nigeria, Israel and France. It is published by Revel Barker Publishing at £9.99.
A delightful memoir
By Nick Cowans
I found this a delightful memoir right from the first page where Walter tells of his determination, when he was only 13, to become a foreign correspondent.
Clearly he had what it takes: from that moment he kept diaries and wrote letters to his parents from Paris, Oxford University and his army service in the Malayan jungle.
Walter wrote for the Guardian from Nigeria, Israel, India and France. What I liked best is that he doesn't show off: he admits his faults - and even a disaster or two like turning up stoned for interview with Israel's famous one-eyed General Dayan: he had inadvertently eaten hash cakes. Covering the Nigerian civil war he finished up in a Biafran gaol.
I also liked the way he brings in his game-for-adventure wife Dorothy who bred horses in France, where they lived successively in three chateaux, and their five children who shared in the fun.
Back home, he finished up as the Guardian's religious affairs correspondent. He visited a sex cult in Leicestershire and he held debates with readers about whether faith needs miracles.
Schwarz calls himself a lucky boy because his Dad took his Jewish family out of Austria to Britain when he was seven just before Hitler marched in. He tells how he grew up during the war feeling more patriotic than the native British, with Winston Churchill as his hero.