Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Guest Review: My Paper Chase

Summary: In My Paper Chase, Harold Evans recounts the wild and wonderful tale of newspapering life. His story stretches from the 1930s to his service in WWII, through towns big and off the map. He discusses his passion for the crusading style of reportage he championed, his clashes with Rupert Murdoch, and his struggle to use journalism to better the lives of those less fortunate. There's a star-studded cast and a tremendously vivid sense of what once was: the lead type, the smell of the presses, eccentrics throughout, and angry editors screaming over the intercoms. My Paper Chase tells the story of Evans's great loves: newspapers and Tina Brown, the bright, young journalist who became his wife.

In an age when newspapers everywhere are under threat,
My Paper Chase is not just a glorious recounting of an amazing life, but a nostalgic journey in black and white. -- Little, Brown & Company

It's been awhile, but Booking Pap Pap is back with another great guest review. This time, he's talking about MY PAPER CHASE: TRUE STORIES OF VANISHED TIMES by Harold Evans. I just knew when I read this description that this book sounded like on that he'd appreciate. Here are his thoughts:

MY PAPER CHASE is the memoirs of Harold Evans, one of the most recognized newspaper editors of the twentieth century.

Mr. Evans takes the reader through his childhood in a war-torn England, into his newspaper career culminating as editor of the Sunday Times and The Times of London and finally into a brief account of his more than two decades in the United States.

The author describes his youth in significant detail and gives a good understanding of his humble beginnings. Nothing came easy for Evans as his yearning for an education took him through grammar school and passing the Matriculation Boards, through Business College where he learned typing and shorthand, and later through university life at Durham, the third oldest university in England. The stories of a young Harold Evans recount in vivid detail his memories of school, friends and home life. His descriptions of bombing raids and food rationing give a glimpse of the bleak grey life in England during World War II.

The centerpiece of this autobiography is Evans’ newspaper career. Eva’s first newspaper job in 1944 at age 16 was as a junior reporter for a small newspaper. Except for three years in the Royal Air Force and three years to attend university, Evans worked continually in the newspaper industry finally reaching the pinnacle of his career in 1966 becoming editor of the Sunday Times. Evans was probably best known for his investigative reporting and grassroots journalism, newspaper practices he identified as important while briefly traveling and studying journalism in the U.S. in the mid-1950s. Evans gives the reader a picture of the U.S. in the 1950s as he describes his experiences in New York after arriving, his time in Chicago living at the International House at the University of Chicago and observing the Suez crisis and the McCarthy hearings and his time in the Deep South and West observing the strife of the Native Indians and Blacks.

Harold Evans generated a powerful list of investigative stories and editorial crusades during his tenure in the newspaper industry. Amazingly, he did this in an environment where British law could be a deterrent to this style of reporting. Among those described in great detail in the book were: pollution in North East England, the thalidomide and pap-smear controversies with the English Minister of Health, the conflict in Northern Ireland, the atrocities in East Pakistan, the crimes of Uganda leader Idi Amin and the murder of David Holden, foreign correspondent and suspected spy.

Evans goes to great length in discussing the thuggish trade unions and their role in the decline of the Sunday Times and the Times and there sale to Rupert Murdock in1981. After the acquisition of the Sunday Times and the Times by Rupert Murdock, Harold Evans was named editor of the Times only to be fired by Murdock one year later.

Evans moved to the U.S. with his second wife and had a successful U.S. career, albeit not in the newspaper industry, culminating as president and publisher of the Random House. There he had the opportunity to associate with influential people such as Marlon Brando, Richard Nixon, Colin Powell, Henry Kissinger, Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan. Unfortunately Evans does not discuss his career in the U.S. in the same detail as his life in England and misses the opportunity to share with the reader his impressions of these unique individuals.

In MY PAPER CHASE, Harold Evans illustrates his love of the newspaper business and gives the reader his insights into the world of journalism in a very entertaining way. He gives his account of what responsible journalism really is and describes a time in the history of newspapers when they were really important. Even though it took me a while to adjust to Evans’ writing style, MY PAPER CHASE is well worth the time it takes to read it.

Thanks to the publisher for sending a review copy of MY PAPER CHASE and to Booking Pap Pap for his interesting review.


Beth Kephart said...

I've been following this book! (and I love these guest reviews).

Thanks for an unbiased look between the covers.

bermudaonion said...

I've been missing Booking Pap Pap and I'm glad to see him back here. I thought I might like this book and the fact that he did just confirms that for me.

Beth F said...

My mother was/is a journalist. I should recommend this book for her. Thanks to Booking Pap Pap for another great review.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I think this is my first Booking Pap Pap review! And it was excellent. This is the type of book where you learn something.

Lisa said...

Thanks for the review--I'm looking forward to reading this one!