978-0-330-35566-7 / 9780330355667

Strange Places, Questionable People: Updated With a New Chapter on Kosovo


Publisher:Pan Books



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About the book:

John Simpson has had an extraordinary professional life: he has been to 101 countries, interviewed 120 rulers of various persuasions, and witnessed 29 wars and uprisings. He had an ill-fated spell reading the Nine O'Clock News, and was also the BBC political correspondent (which he loathed). He emerges fairly unscathed; he can appear arrogant and over-bearing, but he maintains a healthy degree of self-deprecation, and to survive the macho world in which he works one would need the skin of a rhinoceros.

He has become a household name (though he still gets mistaken for presenter John Humphrys), and his stories, some oft-repeated, are fascinating, the tone as dry as his reportage. The disquieting effect they have is to show the fragile arbitrariness of power and the people who crave it, and it is this indigestible feeling of vulnerability that one is left with when the gung-ho spirit has faded.

But what of the man? Curiously he chose to live with his father when his parents' marriage split up. He loves books, as he constantly reminds us, and would love to be known for his writing. He is sensitive about his appearance, referring more than once to his girth, and he is now married for the second time. Beyond this, he reveals little extraneous detail. This is a pity, but should be no surprise. The story is the thing, after all, and his is a journalistic honesty, which makes for compelling, if two-dimensional, reading. --David Vincent

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