The third bestselling volume of memoirs from John Simpson.
John Simpson draws on thirty odd years of experience at the BBC, where he began in the 1960s and worked with veteran journalists of the time. He describes the many changes in the way news is reported and gathered, and indeed, in the change in our expectations of news reporting.
In particular, I found the discussion of the logistics of news gathering intriguing, and it has made me view television news reports in a different light.
I like the way John Simpson explains some of his frustrations when trying to get a short, interesting piece back to the BBC in London. The effort involved is really quite staggering, when you consider that the result is a report on an evening news programme which lasts from just 60 to 120 seconds.
My favourite anecdote in the book is where he describes the TV crew's attempt to cross the Amudarya river (the river formerly known as the Oxus). "Your ship", indicates one of the Afghan guides. 'But our ship wasn't a ship... All it was, was four large tractor tyres bound together with rope and supporting a wooden frame which was covered with straw.'
The book appears to alternate between tales of Simpson's exploits in Afghanistan and other places, and in-depth looks at TV news journalism by turns. Simpson's clear and, at times, humourous writing style makes this read quite entertaining. One of the startling things he reveals is just how much preparation, and money, is involved in foreign reporting.
The book amounts to nice exposé of TV journalism, coupled with some insightful looks at the workings of Central Asian countries, notably Afghanistan and Pakistan. I also liked Simpson's descriptions of the crazy, corrupt and seemingly arbitrary process of gaining visas for such countries.