fine writing... tradecraft... the funny side... the other side... foreign affairs... history... biography... fiction... food and drink

 

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

12covers 

Some of the greatest names in British newspapers are among the authors and the subjects in this unique collection and selection.

For more information click on the author names or in the column on the left.

 

fine writing

Cassandra (William Connor) was possibly the most famous columnist in post-war journalism. For more than thirty years he set new styles for writing, commentary and straight-forward reporting – copied often, but never matched or beaten.

Keith Waterhouse, the first living author to have a book (Billy Liar) on the GCSE syllabus, succeeded Cassandra as chief columnist on the Daily Mirror (for 26 years) before moving to the Daily Mail (23 years).His book on newspaper style (first drafted in 1979) is still revered and read avidly and with joy by students and practitioners of the trade.

Vincent Mulchrone occupied the throne as best feature writer in Fleet Street, admired by almost everybody for his apparently easy and always graceful style. His love for the job shone through his work. He once said: ‘Journalism is the only form of human activity where the orgasm comes at the beginning.’

the great game - tradecraft

Anthony Delano wrote two of the best books (or maybe, simply, the best books)  about Fleet Street at work. His first, Slip-Up (later a TV film, scripted by Waterhouse) was described in The Times as a ‘cautionary tale... the story of the in-fighting and downfall of all concerned has one rolling in the aisles. Mr Delano’s eye is astute, his ear a credit to his profession at any level; and his wit is accompanied by the ability to write clear English.’

His second work chronicled the tabloid newspaper chase for an American beauty queen on the run after being accused of kidnapping and raping a Mormon missionary in the English home counties. As they might say nowadays, you couldn’t make it up.

Arnie Wilson’s job in newspapers was to telephone famous people and persuade them to say something – anything – that might interest readers. His charm, cheek and chutzpah invariably succeeded, often with celebrities revealing more intimate or funny anecdotes than they had originally intended.

the funny side of the street

Ian Skidmore was one of those happy reporters who stumbled across unlikely stories and even less likely characters. Forgive Us Our Press Passes (revised and doubled in length from its first edition) charts his life as a reporter, news editor and hack-about-town and was the first title published under this imprint. It led the way for the next thirty...

Colin Dunne entertained (and is still entertaining) millions of readers with his canny ability to spot, and to report, the strange, the odd, the unlikely and the just plain daft, producing interviews with celebrities including film star Brigitte Bardot and Corky The Talking Dog. Meanwhile back in the office were the immoral, completely unreliable, reckless, feckless but richly talented and endlessly amusing colleagues wondering whether they would ever be given an assignment, or whether they should simply go for a long lunch and moan to each other about their lack of employment.

the other side of the street

A Crooked Sixpence by Murray Sayle was described by Phillip Knightly (Sunday Times) as ‘the best novel about journalism – ever.’ It’s a thinly disguised account of a young investigative reporter’s life on a sensational Sunday newspaper... too thinly disguised for some – its original publication was withdrawn and pulped after characters in the book thought their identities were too easily recognised.

Harry Procter was a household name during his Fleet Street days – when people heard of an unusual story they would say: ‘Tell Harry Procter about it’. There hasn’t been a reporter with that sort of fame (or notoriety) since. The Street of Disillusion is a classic tale following a young man’s ambition to reach the Street and make his name there covering all the big stories – murders, fraudsters, runaways, wayward priests and nuns... and then to lose all faith and hope in what some hacks referred to as The Boulevard of Broken Dreams.

foreign affairs

Eric Silver covered Israel for the Guardian and the Observer, later for the Independent and newspapers and magazine from India to Los Angeles over a period of forty years. His collection of skilfully drafted columns is more than a text book for aspiring foreign correspondents: it is also a chronicle of the history of a nation.

For ‘Foreign’ see also Justin Stares, Walter Schwarz.

history

One book that should be on every journalist’s shelf is Publish and be Damned! by Hugh Cudlipp, doyen of best-selling tabloid journalism. Subtitled The astonishing story of the Daily Mirror, it records the first 50 years of that newspaper – which Cudlipp controlled as editorial director and chairman but never formally edited – culminating in its position as the best-selling daily newspaper in the world. ‘Sparkles and flashes like a welder’s arc’ – Cassandra.

Not everything that the Daily Mirror touched turned to gold, even in its heyday. When the pianist Liberace thought that the newspaper had implied that he was homosexual, he sued. Former Mirror reporter Revel Barker, who had followed the case by reading it on the way to school, later got to know most of the players (but not Liberace) in this story and, working partly from the court transcripts, has compiled the extraordinary account of what was to become the biggest and most famous (and most expensive) libel trial since Oscar Wilde. ‘It’s the Liberace show!’ – Time magazine.

It’s now more than 100 years since the first woman became editor of a national daily newspaper. She lasted in the job only a few weeks... before being replaced by a man. Liz Hodgkinson pays tribute to some foot-soldiers and commanders of the regiment of women – many of them household names – who by their courage and determination helped shape and humanise national newspaper journalism.

From the broadsides of the sixteenth century to the broadsheets of the 19th century, taking in the Civil War newsbooks, the gutter press of the 18th century, the rise of Sunday papers full of sex, sport and sensationalism, and the birth of the popular press, Bob Clarke describes the journey of the English newspaper from Grub Street to Fleet Street. It vividly portrays the way the news was reported, to provide a colourful, if often gruesome, picture of the social history of the past.

biography

Geoffrey Goodman had a ringside seat for the most momentous years of post-war politics from Bevan to Blair and a special pass into the corridors of power. Michael Foot said: ‘We all knew that he had the best story to tell, and here it is.’

Walter Schwarz decided when he was 13 that he wanted to be a foreign correspondent and he achieved that ambition by working, mainly for the Guardian, in Nigeria, Israel, India, France and Germany with his wife, five children and a variety of dogs and horses in tow. These were the days before computers or the Internet, when getting the story was sometimes easier than getting it back to London.

Ennio Iacobucci, an illiterate boy from the mountains, spent his childhood as a slave in an Italian monastery, then escaped to Rome where he met and was befriended by the local Reuters correspondent who encouraged him to become a photographer. Justin Stares tracks the life of the Pulitzer nominee whose career took him to Brussels, London, Paris, Israel and Saigon

For journalists’ biographies see also: Colin Dunne, Harry Procter, Ian Skidmore

fiction

Nearly 70 years on, nobody still knows the certain truth about the demise of Adolf Hitler. Using medical diaries and contemporary news reports and interviews, Revel Barker concocts one possible scenario which the Northern Echo described as ‘the most thought-provoking book of the year’ and the Yorkshire Post made its Book of the Month in the story of one reporter’s search for the facts behind the so-called ‘history’.

A TV journalist embarks upon the greatest story of his career – the background to his own life and that of his parents and his adoptive family. It all leads to an even bigger story.... rooted in history’s biggest crime: the holocaust. It is a tale worthy of Le Carre, related by a former newspaper and television reporter Geoffrey Seed who picked up the roots of the story over dinner with contacts.

A Fleet Street reporter takes redundancy and retires to a Mediterranean island that his father had ‘liberated’ during the war. He becomes editor of the local bi-weekly paper and then also mayor of the island. It was the best-selling ‘political novel’ on amazon-uk when published in 2012 and is the first of the ‘Montebello’ trilogy by Revel Barker.

food and drink

In his Who’s Who entry Keith Waterhouse listed his sole hobby as ‘Lunch’. He has written an authoritative and delightfully witty manual on the most agreeable meal of the day. ‘Informative, sensible, well-written, entirely unpretentious... well worth the price of a bottle of house red’ – the Observer.

As a reporter (chiefly Daily Mail, also The Times, Daily Telegraph, Radio Times and others) William Greaves found that his job frequently took him to pubs. He started collecting them or, rather, the stories behind them. He even, as ‘a menopausal diversion’ actually owned and ran one. And then he realised that there was a book in it.

Former Mirror reporter (Manchester, London, New York, Washington) Maggie Hall has for years been besotted by the taste – and by the very idea – of brewers yeast extract and has written the definitive work on the subject in dictionary form as a collection of the most amazing, zany, interesting, erudite, amusing and stupid gems of information about... Marmite. A ‘must’ gift for anybody in the ‘love-it’ camp that has literally spread around the world.

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