Author of Snake Oil
, John Diamond, believed journalism to be an ephemeral thing: "If I wanted to write for posterity's sake, I'll start another unfinishable book." Sadly, he did. At the time of his death, on March 2, 2001, Diamond had written six chapters of Snake Oil
. Intended to be "an uncomplimentary view of complementary medicine", he was spurred into writing the book by the 5,000 letters he received suggesting alternative cures for his terminal cancer.
In the book Diamond sets out to prove that the protagonists of alternativism are, at best, gullible and misguided, at worst, con-merchants and quacks. The uncompleted book ends with the words: "Let me explain." Unfortunately, he wasn't given the chance. The remainder of the book is made up from a selection of Diamond's articles and columns, which, edited by brother-in-law Dominic Lawson, were chosen on "the basis of his humour rather than his tumour". As a freelancer, Diamond wrote about anything for anyone. Consequently, the "preoccupations" cover every subject under the sun, including soggy bread, middle age , donor cards, first dates and bottled water: " ... the perfect accompaniment to good food and fine wines, it can even be served as a refreshing drink in its own right". But, post diagnosis, it's Diamond's columns for The Times which hit home hardest. As his condition progresses, Diamond remains stoically reflective without ever sounding resentful; always moving, but never maudlin, his insouciant prose conveys a humbling bravery. John Diamond may have considered journalism to be a transitory art form, but as this collection of his work shows, his writing makes an indelible impression. --Christopher Kelly
At the time of his death from cancer on 1 March 2001, journalist and broadcaster John Diamond had completed six chapters of what was to be "an uncomplimentary look at the world of complementary medicine". These chapters, based on his own experience and on researched fact, which were emailed each week to his editors at Random House, are both personal and poignant, hard hitting and controversial, tackling the issues raised by alternative medicine with total candour and his usual wit. The second half of this book features some of the best of Diamond's writing, including a selection of emails to colleagues and friends, articles from "The Times" and the "Jewish Chronicle" and other publications, together with excerpts from his final notebook. For seven years he wrote an immensely popular weekly column in "The Times" which, following his diagnosis with cancer, was given over to following the progress of the disease. As well as gaining him a Columnist of the Year award, it resulted in an avalanche of mail from thousands of his readers.