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Nigel Dempster and the Death of Discretion [Hardcover]

Tim Willis

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Book Description

7 Oct 2010
No one is more responsible for Britain s current obsession with celebrity culture than the late, great gossip columnist Nigel Dempster (1941-2007). For a quarter of a century, as the editor of the Daily Mails diary, he was the man perfectly placed and qualified to record and accelerate the end of the age of deference. Indeed, for many people Dempsters Diary was the Mail. His page, with its scurrilous revelations about the great, the good, and the not-so good, was the only one to read.
Bursting on to the national stage in the Seventies, in his kipper ties and too-tight suits, Dempster was the people s cad exposing the infidelities of Harold Pinter and Lady Antonia Fraser or James Goldsmith and Annabel Birley, paying tipsters like the bouffant Lord Lichfield with crates of champagne.
He was a consummate journalist, too, breaking such then-huge stories as the collapse of Princess Margaret s marriage and the resignation of Harold Wilson. But for all his convivial charm and canny ability to infiltrate the smart set, Dempster led a strangely isolated life. Marred by broken relationships and a dependence on drink, its ending was both pitiful and inspiring.
In this riveting study of a man and his milieu, Tim Willis treats Dempsters bibulous journey through old Fleet Street and Society as a tragi-comic romp. And through it, he provides a portrait of a changing world.

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Review

I m really jealous of this; Dempsters world is such a juicy subject and Tim Willis has caught it completely. --Peter York

A gorgeous account of the sentimental sadist, seasoned with scandal and nostalgia --Julie Burchill

"Witty, scandalous and horribly riveting" --The Sunday Times

This lively, well-written biography is studded with the sort of anecdotes Dempster would have relished... (But) is is more than a portrait of a man; it is a portrait of a pre-Twitter age. Dempster prefigured our celebrity culture and in the end was submerged by it... --The Evening Standard

This alluring biography chronicles the extraordinary changes British society has undergone in the past few decades and accurately defines the columnist s own part in that seismic shift. It s a dazzling read, a helter-skelter ride through High Society and Fleet Street... --The Sunday Express

'Not just a fine portrait of a diarist, Tim Willis has anatomised a society in flux' - Rachel Johnson --The Lady

'A must for anyone interested in showbusiness and how it is reported' --News of the World

Effervescent, elegantly written and faultlessly researched... Tim Willis has caught the atmosphere of the Dempster decades with uncanny precision. Willis's book treats the many facets of Dempster, his braggadocio and his bonking, his swagger, his guile and his generosity with frankness and in fascinating detail. -- Nicky Haslam, The Spectator

--The Spectator

Effervescent, elegantly written and faultlessly researched... Tim Willis has caught the atmosphere of the Dempster decades with uncanny precision. Willis's book treats the many facets of Dempster, his braggadocio and his bonking, his swagger, his guile and his generosity with frankness and in fascinating detail. --The Spectator

'A must for anyone interested in showbusiness and how it is reported' --News of the World

About the Author

A freelance writer and editor, Tim Willis has worked for most of Britains national newspapers and some of its glossier magazines. He is also the author of Madcap (Short Books, 2002), an acclaimed biography of Pink Floyds crazy diamond Syd Barrett.

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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A life of a man who lived in public.... 18 Jan 2011
By Jill Meyer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Tim Willis' biography of Nigel Dempster could be slightly better written, I suppose, but the basic problem with Willis' book is that the subject - Nigel Dempster - is scarcely known to the American audience. I had heard the name and had read Dempster's columns in British papers when I was visiting in the 80's and 90's. In addition to the subject of the book being unfamiliar in the US, so are most of the people Dempster wrote about. Of course, everybody knows Diana and Charles and their families, but many of the other people in Dempster's columns are largely names-on-a-page in the US.

I mention this first in my review because, as a long time reviewer, I've found that most Americans like reading about "our own". Nothing wrong with that, actually, but I think most US readers of Willis' biography of Nigel Dempster - which really is pretty well written - won't appreciate it.

Nigel Dempster represented a newspaper figure who existed in his hey-day, the 1980's and 1990's, in England, long after his US counterparts - Cholly Knickerbocker, Suzi, etc - stopped writing. Dempster, who was from a wealthy family - but not wealthy enough to really attain high social status in Britain - was a "hanger-on" in the British social circles in which he wanted to move. As it is, he moved in those circles while writing about them. That's not always a smart thing to do - witness Truman Capote who was kicked out of "high society" in the US after he wrote disparagingly about his "Swans".

Dempster, marrying and divorcing twice, was not a particularly interesting person. He seemed to "mimic" those he hung out with and seemed not to - maybe purposely - be his own "man". Williss writes an interesting book about an interesting time in English social history, with an indistinct figure in the middle.
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