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A Mad World, My Masters: Tales from a Traveller's Life Paperback – 3 Oct 2008


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A Mad World, My Masters: Tales from a Traveller's Life + Strange Places, Questionable People + Unreliable Sources: How the Twentieth Century was Reported
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Product details

  • Paperback: 436 pages
  • Publisher: Pan Books; 1st Pan Edition edition (3 Oct 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330355678
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330355674
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 155,132 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Some people just aren't cut out for the suburbs. As one of the BBC's top foreign correspondents, John Simpson has been at the epicentre of many of the world's flashpoints for more than 30 years. Afghanistan, Belgrade, Hong Kong, Baghdad; you name it, he's been there. And what's more, he hasn't just met the great and the good, such as Clinton and Blair, he's met the top bogey men, too. He's had Osama Bin Laden pleading with some Afghani guerrillas to kill him and his crew, he's interviewed Emperor Bokassa, Colonel Gadhafi and Arkan and had close up dealings with Saddam Hussein. And it goes without saying he was one of the first people in the entire world to see in the new millennium on the specially named Millennium Island, which the Kiribati government claimed just squeezed inside the international date line.

Small wonder, then, that Simpson is a source of dozens of good stories. Many of these have been written up elsewhere in his autobiographical Strange Places, Questionable People, but there are plenty left over for this latest book in which Simpson eschews chronology and just sticks to some plain old-fashioned story telling, with sections on villains, spies, icons etc. Unsurprisingly, Simpson has a journalistic eye for detail and nuance and never holds back from telling you the things you want to know; so when he went to interview Bokassa, he managed to sneak a look inside his giant deep freeze to see if there were any human body parts. It sounds trivial but it isn't; in a strange sort of way the examination of the contents of a deep freeze can be every bit as revealing as an hour on a shrink's couch.

Simpson is a genial companion, not much given to introspection, and the book races seamlessly from anecdote to anecdote. And yet underpinning the narrative is Simpson's global malaise, a feeling that everywhere in the world is becoming more and more similar and that it's increasingly hard to find anywhere genuinely wild and remote. Simpson has been to many of those places, but the way he describes them makes them seem fairly similar in their own kind of way. McDonalds and the Gap may be thin on the ground, but there are bullets and danger aplenty. To have been to so many of these places is an achievement in itself; to have returned unscathed is a minor miracle; John Simpson has led a charmed life in more ways than one. --John Crace --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

'Highly entertaining' The Times; 'What amazing tales he has to tell, and with what enthralling vividness...Riveting' Daily Mail; 'The range of his travels is staggering...Never less than entertaining, sometimes moving and often funny' Sunday Telegraph

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Marky Markus on 22 Oct 2005
Format: Paperback
Apart from the fact that John Simpson has been a long time and well regarded journalist for the BBC (mostly political and war correspondence), he has achieved a level of intrigue and pure brilliance in his style of writing for 'A Mad World, My Masters'.
He manages to encapsulate life's realities, the highs, the lows and the grey in-between of everywhere and everyone he has connected with. Although what this book delivers is presented purely from his own individual experiences and through the eyes of a distinguished journalist - I think it's fair to say that his usual diplomatic and charismatic approach to life is portrayed at every opportunity and stops this becoming one mans crusade to save the world.
John's ability to provide real life accounts of a society built around political incompetencies and dictatorships, coupled with his underlying British humour and determination in the face of terrifying adversity, shows us the side of life that most people if they're honest pretend doesn't exist.
A truly recommended read, that will only leave you queuing up for his next title.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 24 Feb 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book is an extremely good read. Simpson visits some of the most difficult places in the world. Instead of inflating the reader's impression of him by overstating the danger, he is frank, understating and sees the funny side to everything.
He is honest about the charm of villains (a pleasant change from the grotesque moral righteousness of some journalists' writing) and he looks for the beauty in places and people.
Simpson's style brings to mind everything good about British culture: humour, honesty, humility, courage and adventure. Simpson's wit, similar to that of Robert Cooper, who he mentions in the book, is admirable.
This book will make you laugh out loud, and wish you too could visit some of these places or meet some of the villains. I wish there were more books like this.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Leo T. Mclaughlin on 24 May 2002
Format: Paperback
In this book, John Simpson recalls many of the conflicts, the incidents, the interviews and the mayhem that he has been caught up in throughout his long career. This book was probably an escape mechanism for Simpson - a platform on which he can tell these stories HIS way, and not how his bosses reckon the stories should be told.
The book is full of anecdotes, between four and twelve pages long. Each one is entertaining and enthralling, in particular when he recalls Colonel Gadaffi's flatulence, Osama bin Laden's displeasure when he could not kill Simpson, and how the Taliban look like tranvestites.
The book is cunningly divided into chapters headed "Villains", "Dodgin", "Dictators" to name just three. In each he recalls vividly the occasions when he came into contact with these people.
Simpson also talks about his personal feeling about people and organisations. In particular he is very critical of the UK government, and its failure to grant asylum to an Afghan doctor who's life was seriously threatened.
All in all the book is very enthralling and well worth buying.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 7 Sep 2003
Format: Audio Cassette
As I had expected I would, I really enjoyed this. I haven't read (or listened to) John Simpson's first volume (this being the second), but I don't think it made any difference.
"A Mad World, My Masters", is a collection of accounts of Simpson's experiences whilst reporting from around the world, from Kosovo to Iraq to South America. Each section is told with a great balance of shock, wonder and humour.
Simpson's narration is excellent - he sounds like he really wants you to know what it was like to be doing what he was doing.
I would recommend this to anyone who wants to hear a genuinely interesting story told by a great story-teller.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By pa868 on 30 Dec 2001
Format: Paperback
Hands down, the most fascinating book I've ever read.
I had always fancied the life of an international correspondent, but after reading this I'm content to live it vicariously through men such as John Simpson. His brushes with the more dangerous characters of the world (petty criminals aside) read like a offbeat holiday experience gone wrong for the most of us. How he has survived (largely) unscathed all these years beats me.
There's an undercurrent of danger throughout these stories and his narrative is subtley laced with his own politics, which produces much more than a mere journalistic travelogue.
The momentum of the book is effectively kept up by skipping from country to country, year to year, world event to world event with little obvious connection. As Simpson himself says, this is a conscious effort to generate a conversational style which might ordinarily be used when imparting his experiences at the dinner table. Whilst disconcerting at first, this keeps the reader's interest up and no chapter is allowed to outstay its welcome. As a result the book is unputdownable.
Anyone interested in international travel, journalism, the less touristy destinations of the world or (like me) who has a fairly blinkered view of the world must read this book!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By David Stewart on 2 May 2007
Format: Paperback
John Simpson's 'Mad World, My Masters' is a superb collection of tales from his travels across the world as a foreign correspondent. The events he has seen and the activities he has participated in are both exciting and very readable. This is an easy going book that nevertheless manages to tackle some complicated issues in a way that all readers can understand, this book is recommended to anyone interested in world affairs or really anyone up for hearing a good story.
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