Benison bringing cottage thriller
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.
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.