Dominique Lapierre was one of the pioneers of the subjective news story, a man who was never afraid to put himself, both physically and emotionally, at the heart of his reports. It is a style that has been often imitated, but as A Thousand Suns
shows, has seldom been bettered. In 1944 Lapierre won his own footnote in history by misdirecting the German tanks and accelerating the liberation of Paris by two days, and you could argue that ever since he has been making sure that other people get the credit they deserve. A Thousand Suns
is both a personal memoir and a testament to the notable characters Lapierre met along the way from the great and the good, such as Mother Teresa, to the infamous, (such as Caryl Chessman who was executed in San Quentin in 1960), to the more anonymous. Throughout, Lapierre is always looking for the personal details that make the stories come alive. And he finds them. He discovers that General von Choltitz, the Nazi in charge of occupied Paris, had had an overcoat made in the summer of 1944 "because he thought it would be cold in a POW camp". From Kozo Okamato, the only surviving Red Army Faction (RAF) member to bomb Lod airport, that he became a terrorist after being dumped twice by girlfriends. "At the time the RAF seemed a less demanding lover." These are the insights that make Lapierre¹s work sing and he is never afraid to find the humanity in even the most apparently evil of people. This is both a virtue and his undoing, as Lapierre sometimes allows his obvious affection for his subject cloud all judgment. This is especially true of his accounts of Lord Mountbatten of Burma. Mountbatten was a known charmer, but his record on the partition of India does not bear scrutiny. His fudging of the boundaries and the speed with which he acted was undoubtedly a significant factor in the mass bloodshed that followed. Lapierre lets him off the hook with a single sentence, "By extricating his country from the Indian wasp's nest without spilling a drop of British blood, Mountbatten had saved Great Britain from one of those colonial wars of which France had made a speciality". Even for a partisan observer, this simply will not do. But a journalist who cares too much is always preferable to one that doesn't care at all, and Lapierre especially so, for the range and depth of his reportage if nothing else. He harks back to a more innocent age when public figures were more innocent and trusting; few journalists would get anything like the access to equivalent figures today. Enjoy him, warts and all. You won't see his like again. --John Crace
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.