Sunday, July 27, 2008

John Darnton's "Black and White and Dead All Over"

John Darnton has worked for forty years as a reporter, editor, and foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He was awarded two George Polk Awards for his coverage of Africa and Eastern Europe, and the Pulitzer Prize for his stories that were smuggled out of Poland during the period of martial law. A best-selling author, his novels include Neanderthal and The Darwin Conspiracy.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new novel, Black and White and Dead All Over, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Black and White and Dead All Over, which is a satire about today's newspaper business set in the guise of a murder mystery, presents background about a single character. He's a minor character who plays only a minor role in the plot, but he does represent something larger. He's an old-time newspaper columnist, a shoe-leather man, who smokes, drinks, remembers riding in police cars with Walter Winchell and is about to get sacked -- in other words, the last of a dying breed. He grew up poor in Hell's Kitchen, drifted into newspapering by accident and stuck with it because it gave him a living and he was good at it. That, in essence, is the book's entire view of the profession today: the great golden days are over -- that is, the days before the Web stole the ads, the Ivy League became a recruiting ground, reporters became journalists, food critics became celebrities and editors buckled under to business pressures. I admit, it's a view tainted by romance, but journalism, to those who engage in it, has always been this remarkable balancing act between cynicism and optimism.
Read an excerpt from the novel, and learn more about the author and his work at John Darnton's website and his blog.

--Marshal Zeringue