Beni­son bring­ing cot­tage thriller

Winnipeg Free Press - - I NON-FICTION BOOKS - RE­VIEWED BY MOR­LEY WALKER BOB ARM­STRONG booknews­bob@gmail.com

HIS en­joy­able though poorly ti­tled mem­oir will chiefly ap­peal to me­dia hounds want­ing an in­sider’s take on in­ter­na­tional me­dia ty­coon Ru­pert Mur­doch.

Au­thor Les Hin­ton spent 52 years work­ing for the Mur­doch em­pire, News Cor­po­ra­tion, on three con­ti­nents.

Born in 1944 into the English work­ing class near Liver­pool, he started as a news­pa­per copy boy in Ade­laide, Aus­tralia, at age 15 and rose to be­come one of Mur­doch’s long­est-serv­ing and most trusted se­nior ex­ec­u­tives.

He was forced to re­sign in 2011 in the wake of the no­to­ri­ous phone-hack­ing scan­dal at Mur­doch’s U.K. pa­per News of the World.

Although he was work­ing in New York at the time, as pub­lisher of the Wall Street Jour­nal, he had been in charge of all Mur­doch’s Bri­tish pa­pers in 2007, when the crimes took place.

Hin­ton presents his side of those fraught events in the fi­nal 80 pages here. It is a tale of am­bi­tion, in­trigue, pol­i­tics, in­com­pe­tence and vengeance run amok.

As for his views on the Big Kahuna, Hin­ton re­mains es­sen­tially a loy­al­ist. Mur­doch comes across as a hard-nosed worka­holic, a fierce en­emy of jour­nal­is­tic elitism and a gutsy busi­ness­man.

“The spe­cial dif­fi­culty of work­ing at

This news­pa­pers,” Hin­ton writes, “was that Ru­pert re­ally did know more than any­one else.” Salted with the oc­ca­sional in­ti­mate glimpse — Mur­doch chewed his cu­ti­cles bloody dur­ing the in­tense ne­go­ti­a­tions to buy the WSJ — Hin­ton’s por­trayal is sim­i­lar to those in many other books about the Aus­tralian-born me­dia ty­coon.

There are a cou­ple of scenes, how­ever, in­volv­ing the mis­be­haviour of Mur­doch’s son James that make the re­cent HBO me­dia fam­ily pot­boiler Suc­ces­sion ring em­bar­rass­ingly true to life.

The ma­jor­ity of An Un­tidy Life, though, is a stan­dard jour­nal­ism mem­oir, told in down-to-Earth fash­ion by a mod­est and lik­able man. The first half fo­cuses on that quaint post­war era when type­writ­ers still clacked, ed­i­tors swore and re­porters drank.

Af­ter 19 years in the re­port­ing trenches in Aus­tralia, Eng­land and New York, Hin­ton was pro­moted into News Corp. man­age­ment in the U.S. in 1978.

In this pe­riod of his ca­reer, Hin­ton came to over­see Mur­doch’s Hol­ly­wood stu­dio, 20th Cen­tury Fox, and his Amer­i­can broad­cast prop­er­ties, in­clud­ing the Fox TV net­work.

This was in the early ’90s, so Hin­ton has noth­ing to say, dis­ap­point­ingly, about Fox News to­day and its cur­rent role as pub­lic re­la­tions agent for the nar­cis­sist-in-chief. There is also noth­ing about the larger com­pany’s re­cent ac­qui­si­tion by Dis­ney.

Given the book’s sub­ti­tle, What I Saw at the Me­dia Rev­o­lu­tion, read­ers might ex­pect Hin­ton to know some­thing they don’t about the tech­nolo­gies that have al­tered me­dia over the past gen­er­a­tion.

He re­lates sev­eral in­stances of hav­ing an early glimpse of dig­i­tal changes to come. Mi­crosoft showed him its En­carta en­cy­clo­pe­dia when it was still in pro­to­type, and Ap­ple’s Steve Jobs gave him and the WSJ some free iPads. But he ad­mits to no spe­cial in­sight.

“I can tell this story with more clar­ity now,” he writes, “but I was lost in the fog as much as any­one.”

An Un­tidy Life, as per many me­dia me­moirs, is filled with anec­dotes about politi­cians and celebri­ties, as well as ac­counts of the great events of the day.

In Eng­land, where it came out last spring, the book was ti­tled Boo­tle Boy, a ref­er­ence to the Liver­pool sub­urb of Hin­ton’s birth. But, un­ac­count­ably, he barely ac­knowl­edges a fa­mous Liver­pudlian four­some.

That said, while liv­ing in L.A., Hin­ton and his fam­ily shared a back­yard fence with O.J. and Nicole Simp­son. He tells a cou­ple of re­veal­ing sto­ries about them. MAN­I­TOBA mys­tery writer Doug White­way, who writes un­der the name C.C. Beni­son, of­fers up a “why­dunit” in his lat­est book, Paul is Dead.

White­way/Beni­son, who wrote the Fa­ther Christ­mas se­ries of mys­ter­ies about an Angli­can priest who turns sleuth, takes a dif­fer­ent ap­proach to crime in his new book. Paul is Dead be­gins with an act of vi­o­lence at a youth­ful cot­tage get­away, then ex­plores the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of that act four decades later, when two of the sur­vivors are brought back to the cot­tage and must try to de­ter­mine why the crime oc­curred.

He launches the novel Sun­day at

3 p.m. at Who­dunit Mys­tery Book­store

(165 Lilac St.).

●●●

Win­nipeg poet and writ­ing in­struc­tor Sally Ito ex­plores her fam­ily’s his­tory amid the con­text of the Sec­ond World War and its af­ter­math in her new work of cre­ative non-fic­tion, The Em­peror’s Or­phans.

Ito launches the new book, pub­lished by Win­nipeg’s Turn­stone Press, on Mon­day at 7 p.m. at the Grant Park lo­ca­tion of McNally Robin­son Book­sell­ers. She tells the story of fam­ily mem­bers who trav­elled back and forth from Canada to Ja­pan and ex­plores fam­ily se­crets and the search for home and be­long­ing.

●●●

Win­nipeg read­ers have the chance to meet the 2011 Bri­tish new writer of the year — and au­thor of the in­ter­na­tional best­seller When God Was a Rab­bit — Mon­day at 7:30 p.m. at McNally Robin­son’s Grant Park lo­ca­tion.

Ac­tor-turned-au­thor Sarah Win­man will read from and sign her third novel, Tin Man (Pen­guin Canada), in con­ver­sa­tion with broad­caster and in­struc­tor Joanne Kelly.

●●●

Giller Prize-win­ning novelist El­iz­a­beth Hay turns her at­ten­tion to her own fam­ily’s story in her new work of non-fic­tion, All Things Con­soled: A Daugh­ter’s Mem­oir.

Hay, au­thor of the Giller Prizewin­ning Late Nights on Air as well as Alone in the Class­room, writes about her child­hood with her par­ents and how her life and theirs changed when they be­came de­pen­dent on her.

She will read from the work and chat with Uni­ver­sity of Win­nipeg pro­fes­sor and mem­oirist Kath­leen Ven­ema on Thurs­day at 7 p.m. at McNally Robin­son’s Grant Park lo­ca­tion.

●●●

For­mer Win­nipeg­ger Steven Erik­son takes a turn into science fic­tion af­ter his best­selling 10-book fan­tasy se­ries, The Malazan Book of the Fallen.

Erik­son, who sold mil­lions of copies of the Malazan se­ries, tells a story of first con­tact with ex­trater­res­tri­als, which ex­plores what would hap­pen if hu­mans lost the abil­ity to hurt each other, in his new novel Re­joice, a Knife to the Heart (Promon­tory Press). He launches the book Thurs­day at

7:30 p.m. at McNally Robin­son’s Grant Park lo­ca­tion.

●●●

Most Win­nipeg­gers first heard of the ex­is­tence of the for­mer Métis com­mu­nity Rooster Town dur­ing the re­cent con­flict over de­vel­op­ment of the Parker Lands in south­west Win­nipeg.

Uni­ver­sity of Win­nipeg so­cial ge­og­ra­pher Eve­lyn Peters tells the story of the com­mu­nity in Rooster Town: The His­tory of an Ur­ban Métis Com­mu­nity, 1901-1961 (Uni­ver­sity of Man­i­toba Press). Peters launches the book on Fri­day at 7 p.m. at the Grant Park McNally Robin­son lo­ca­tion.

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The an­nual Friends of the Win­nipeg Pub­lic Li­brary used book sale runs next week­end at Grant Park High School.

Or­ga­niz­ers prom­ise 60 ta­bles of books, CDs, DVDs and LPs. The sale runs Oct. 20 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Oct. 21 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., with sales sup­port­ing the li­brary.

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