* Prices may differ from that shown
I'm an avid reader, mostly of fiction. However, one night I felt like reading something a bit different. Rummaging through my chest of un-read books I came across Piers Morgan's book which I'd bought months earlier from Tesco, for £3.73.
**About Piers Morgan**
Piers Morgan began working in newspapers after studying journalism at Harlow College, and was given his own showbiz column 'Bizarre' in The Sun. He was offered the job of Editor at the News of the World in 1994 by Rupert Murdoch, at the age of 28 - becoming the youngest Editor in over 50 years. The following year he became Editor of the Mirror and often ended up being in the newspapers himself. He finally lost his position in May 2004 after publishing photos of British Troops abusing prisoners in Iraq, which turned out to be fake.
In 2005 Piers Morgan bought the Press Gazette in a partnership with Matthew Freud, and in 2006 launched a newspaper aimed at 9-12 year olds. Over the years, Piers Morgan has also made many television appearances on programmes such as Have I Got News For You, Question Time and This Week. Piers Morgan has also starred in his own shows, such as 'Death of Celebrity', 'Tabloid Tales' and the current series 'You Can't Fire Me, I'm Famous...'
** About this Book**
I'll be honest - my expectations were that I was going to hate this book. I only bought it because it was cheap! I read every night - usually getting through 2 or 3 books and it can get expensive having to buy books all the time, so if I see a cheap book I tend to buy it - whatever it is. I had no real opinion of Piers Morgan before reading this - I thought he seemed smug on Have I Got News For You, but then I quite liked him on Tabloid Tales. I am very much against the way the press intrude in people's lives though. Yes, there's a certain element of 'they should expect it if they're famous', but at the same time, I don't think anyone deserves to be constantly hounded by photographers and journalists - and the press do it to 'normal' people too. There's the whole arguement that newspapers wouldn't print it if it didn't sell, but I think there's a difference between reporting a factual story on a celebrity and sensationalising things to sell more papers. I particularly dislike hearing about photographers hiding up trees, etc. trying to sneak shots of celebrities, and words being twisted to make the story more interesting. I'd be lying if I said I never read celebrity stories - though I don't read them very often because I'm really not that interested - but I don't have anything against people who do read them. It's the 'papparazzi' that I dislike. Given my views, you can see why I thought I'd hate this book.
The book is written in diary form and covers the period from 10th December 1993 to 26th May 2004. Piers Morgan himself confesses he didn't keep a diary of his thoughts, but he kept notes of key moments, events, encounters and emotions over 11 years. He also told his PA to put anything of interest into a box. Letters, photos, cuttings, memos of calls or interviews, emails, faxes, taped interviews and the front page of every edition he ever edited were collected in boxes and stored away. Message books and office diaries were also saved. It is a combination of all these things that the information in the book came from.
In his introduction, Piers Morgan tells the reader that he wanted to be completely honest in this book, by not only detailing the good things, like huge stories he broke, and awards the paper won - but also the bad things - such as violent brawls he had and his lack of compassion on certain stories. He claims that you do get dehumanised editing on a tabloid paper, and that he should admit it. He does try to explain his behaviour by the stress of the job, and the incredible sense of power he felt. In his own words.."I defy anyone to be handed the biggest-selling newspaper in the world at 28 and not become a rather cocky little git". As for his aim in writing the book; he wants it to be "..informative, interesting and even vaguely historical. But most importantly, I hope it makes you laugh."
So, I sat down to read what he'd written. As it's in diary form you can read as much or as little as you want at a time. However, once I picked it up I found that I couldn't put it down, and finished it within a couple of hours.
The book has a prologue, detailing the events that lead to Piers losing his job at The Mirror in 2004, before going back in time to 1993 when he was still writing the 'Bizarre' column for The Sun. From the beginning, you get to see the politics with the newspaper industry and just how much competition there is between papers - even with those who have the same owner. I found it genuinely interesting to see how newspapers work, and how many stories that are attributed to 'friends close to the star' actually came from the star themself. I was also amazed, perhaps naively, at how closely the press and politicians work together. In fact the book is more about events and 'serious' figures like politicians, than it is about celebrities. This was a huge relief to me, as I thought it was going to be full of people like Jordan, and Big Brother contestants. Although there are mentions of many different celebrities, most only get a few lines in the book.
The most interesting thing to me was being reminded of news stories over the years, both big and small, and seeing how they were covered by the newspapers. There are many huge events that happen during the timespan of the book, such as Princess Diana's death, Dunblane, September 11th and the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq, and these are all covered - sometimes not in the way you'd expect. The war on Iraq plays a huge part in the latter part of the book, and Piers Morgan tells us of the struggle he had in editing the paper at that time - wanting to make it clear the paper was still seriously against the war but at the same time supporting our troops. He admits that he didn't always succeed.
I was impressed with Piers Morgan's anti-war stance. The fact that he stood his ground - even though he was put under pressure by both his boss and the Labour government to support the war - was refreshing to see. If we are to believe this book, he also regularly challenged politicians, and the Prime Minister, about the war and asked them about the 'missing' Weapons of Mass Destruction. He also seemed genuinely moved with the story of the little Iraqi boy, Ali Ismaeel Abbas, who lost both his arms because of a bomb, and it was The Mirror's campaign which got the boy brought over to the UK to have surgery and get prosthetic arms.
There are a couple of ironies in the book. One being that Piers Morgan complains about press intrusion a couple of times. Once when he was investigated for buying shares in a company that his own paper then tipped as a good buy, and on another occasion when he was romantically linked to Sheryl Gascoigne - when in fact he barely knew her. It also seems ironic that Piers Morgan complains that celebrities often want 'copy approval' of their interviews before they're published. Given how the tabloids twist people's words, I don't blame the celebrities. One story in the book centres around Richard and Judy, and their move to Channel Four after leaving 'This Morning'. They had been interviewed for The Mirror to promote their new show, but wanted copy approval. The journalist who interviewed them did a good write-up which was entirely flattering towards them. However, when it came back from Richard and Judy, over 800 words had been changed and it was full of praise for themselves. Piers snapped, and printed both copies in The Mirror showing the original, and what it looked like after Richard and Judy had done with it. There was uproar from Channel Four the next day, but surprisingly Richard phoned Piers and said although they'd been furious at first, they now realised how pathetic they were.
It's true to say there isn't a deal about Piers' personal life in the book, although his family is frequently mentioned and there's plenty about his career. I can't say we get to see the 'real' Piers Morgan, though he does appear more human after we hear about his son's meningitis scare, and the pride he felt in his children. The were certainly many things about Piers Morgan that I disliked - his smugness and delusions over his own self-importance for a start - but overall I like him much more now than before reading this book, if only for his sense of humour.
In his introduction Piers admits to name-dropping throughout the book and says at the time of being editor he saw his life as being completely normal - lunching with Princess Diana and Tony Blair. He now agrees it's proposterous. He is very self-depracating throughout the book, especially the latter part, and he questions his own behaviour several times. I may be gullible, but I genuinely believe that he regrets some of the things he's done, and the fact that he's prepared to admit when he's done wrong made him a bit more likeable in my eyes.
I do think you have to take some of the book with a pinch of salt. Even with all the material Piers had to base his book on, I find it doubtful that he'd recall entire conversations that happened years ago. Although, some people who are mentioned in the book, such as Greg Dyke, have confirmed that their recollection of conversations is the same as what has appeared in the book. I also think there's blatant hindsight coming into play, with Piers mentioning things that wouldn't have been important at the time, but would become important months later.
For someone in Piers' position it would be quite easy to try and paint people in a negative light, and there are stories about people, such as Ian Hislop, Jeremy Clarkson and Spike Milligan, that have a negative effect on how you think of them. In particular, the ex-Labour spin doctor, Alistair Campbell is shown in a bad light, though this is resolved slightly towards the end. On the whole though, Piers is quite positive about most people in the book, and people like Sarah Ferguson, and Victoria Beckham he couldn't seem to say a bad word about. He even reflects on how poorly the press have treated Sarah Ferguson over the years, and appears genuinely remorseful about it.
I do think Piers Morgan over-values his self-importance and influence in this book. In particular, he seems to suggest that he was a great help to Tony Blair's career, and to Labour in general, over the years. I've no doubt The Mirror helped Tony Blair, and so to that extent Piers did too, but to accept that Tony Blair was taking advice from Piers Morgan seems a bit unlikely.
Piers Morgan claims that in writing this book, he wasn't breaking any confidences. He says that people know a conversation with him would never truly be 'off the record', and that he's sure he'll be included in other's memoirs, such as Peter Mandelson's and Tony Blair's - though he admits he won't be as important to them, as they are to him. However, it strikes me that in certain situations, such as after having a few drinks, Tony and Cherie Blair probably wouldn't be so guarded in what they were saying and it's doubtful they'd expect to later read about it in a book. There's no harm done, and they come across in a positive way, but it's that old excuse 'they should expect it' that I dislike.
At the back of the book, immediately before the index, is a 'Cast of Characters'. The intention being that when certain people are mentioned only by first name in the book, you can refer to it to find out who the person is. I didn't actually know about this until I'd completed the book, and so in parts I was confused as to who Piers was talking about. I don't know entirely how useful the 'Cast of Characters' is, having never used it, but I think it's a good idea. The only problem with this is that many people have the same first name, so you would have to try and figure out from the context which one is the most likely.
It may seem that I've given a lot away in this review, but believe me, I've barely brushed the surface. There are literally hundreds of anecdotes about different people, and I've mentioned only a handful of the people included in this book. I'll leave the rest for you to read about yourselves!
So - did Piers Morgan complete his objectives with this book? Well, I certainly found the book informative and interesting, and it was historical. I cried at some parts, and got annoyed with Piers Morgan at others, sometimes getting so angry that I'd put the book down in disgust - only to pick it up again moments later. Most of all though, I laughed. I always sit on the floor to read, and there were several times when I was rolling around on the carpet laughing hysterically with tears coming down my cheeks. It was about 3am, so my neighbours probably weren't very happy! I don't laugh easily, at books or television, and there are only two other authors that have genuinely made me laugh out loud before, but I found parts of this book incredibly funny. I particularly liked the 'meetings' Piers Morgan had with Sophie Raeworth and Jeremy Bowen - the ex-BBC One breakfast show presenters. Also very funny was the story about Piers Morgan meeting Bill Clinton, which had me laughing for over ten minutes.
If you're after a serious book that documents the events over the time period the book covers, you won't enjoy this book. If you're after a political commentary, you won't enjoy this book. To the other end of the scale, if you're looking for gossip on Jordan, the Spice Girls, or Big Brother contestants, you'll also be disappointed. This book is an anecdotal account of Piers Morgan's life as Editor of two successful newspapers.You don't have to be a tabloid reader to enjoy this book , but it does have a kind of tabloid 'style' to it. There is a fair bit of bad language too, which doesn't bother me but other people may find it offensive. I feel that if people don't find this book funny, as I did, they may just be annoyed by it - especially if they dislike Piers Morgan to start off with. Personally I'm really glad I bought it, and will definitely re-read it at some point. It's one of the funniest books I've read - ever!
Whether you love Piers Morgan or loathe him, the book's a great insight on the news stories spanning 11 years, and the political and celebrity worlds, I'd definitely recommend people to give it a go.
Well to tell you the truth I havent read this book but if its half as good as the book of yours I bought called piers Morgan (dont you know who I am) going through the airport leaving Aberdeen Scotland I must buy it.
I am a Chef who thought I would brows your book Piers Morgan dont you know who I am on my way to Japan in the hope I would fall asleep while reading it during the flight as I hate long flights.
The fact of the matter was I found that I could not put down your book once I started reading it and the effect it had on me was I was completely knackerd next day joining the ship.
Not a lot of staff trasining happened that day! all the best it was a very good read. If you want to write a storey about me then contact me on email@example.com I travel the world training guys at sea to be Cooks/Chefs!. Sorry I got delusions of grandure while reading your book I should realise I will never be important enough to write about but worth a try anyway.
Piers Morgan, like the ridiculous Jordan, is one of our most iconic and inflated tabloid tits, ridiculed not only for the way he ran the News of the World and the Daily Mirror but for the weasel he appears to be, an essential requirement to run a British tabloid it seems, men that puke up what they write after ten pints. So why would anyone want to read a book about his life running those tabloids? Well the answer, of course, is access. This is a guy that had the Prime Ministers ear for ten years and pretty much anyone elses in the Labor party, a close alliance with the paper formed many decades ago. He was there from day one when Blair came in to number ten and also covered the sad Princess Diana decline and 911, two of the biggest stories of the second half of the twentieth century, and Morgan intimate with many of those bigger events in the lest decade. You may not like the guy but he was there at the heart of it when it happened and so that can only make for interesting reading, considering half of the stuff he finds out about the biggest stories are too damaging to ever publish or buried by lawyers. Some of the stuff in here will raise even Alistair Campbells eyebrow, who Piers calls a twat for getting him sacked by the end of the first chapter of this energetic, intriguing and revelatory book. But you live by the sword and die by the sword in this business, Piers motto being that if you cant get the big story then trash it before the others print it. He was well and truly trashed by his opponents and detractors.
The tome begins as it ends, the recollection by Morgan of the controversial chapter of the apparently faked photos of British soldiers beating up Iraqi prisoners, bringing down Morgan, sacked by the board for not resigning on principal. We never find out if the pictures were fake-through his own words in the book either-but we do know they later represented what was going on out there in Iraq, an antiwar editor becoming the latest victim of Blairs ruthless spin machine soon after, the BBC and Greg Dyke already destroyed over the Hutton Report a year before. By the end of Morgans tenure at the Mirror it was anything but a Labor Party paper.
After the introductory chapter on 2004 and his ignominious sacking, the book spins back to the early nineties when he was surprisingly offered the News of the World editorship by Rupert Murdoch, promoted up from the Aussie megalomaniacs SUN Redtop where he was writing the showbiz Bizarre column, much to the mirth and disbelief of his boss and the then Sun editor in the fearsome Kelvin McKenzie. His mom was also very relieved as she could now cancel the Sun from being sent to her very nice house.
Anyone slaving away trying to earn a few quid writing will be amazed to learn how much national newspaper columnist get for those one page pieces. When the ghastly Michael Winner was writing a column for the News of the World he was on 100k a year for 48 pieces! Jonathan Ross was on 125k a year for his film column in the Mirror and Victor Lewis Smith even more. Piers himself was on 55k at the Sun for his weekly bizarre column.
Blocked out in Bridget Jones style diary form, jottings apparently taken from the time and moment (although sure to be tweaked at the time of going to print in 2004 by a man who made his living from this subterfuge of the truth) the book immediately hooks you in as he reveals the secrets of the stars, politicians and stories of the day with machine gun delivery.
His first big front page at the NOTW would be torpedoed at the last moment when a man parachuted into Buckingham Palace with his bo**ocks painted green. It was a tough call for Britains youngest ever national newspaper editor and he knew Murdoch would be on the blower breathing hot air if he called it wrong, ditching his political expose and going with the khaki knackers. It was the correct call in a business with tacky priorities. Murdochs influence is huge in the media and you dont have the final say on his papers or TV stations when it comes to final editorial.
We also learn early on from Piers some of the tabloid tricks that are deployed to secure the big stories; the recent exposure of Mirror reporters stealing famous peoples voice mail an example of this. Piers favorite tactic would be to secretly pay opposition journalists to leak big stories from rival papers.
Princess Dianas troubled marriage collapse is a concurrent theme in the book, Piers revealing just how much of a nutcase she was from those few meetings they had. The crank calls to the Harley Street surgeon was Morgans first big Di story.
His second big Diana scoop-the Bulimia affair-would see the more devious side of Di in action as she manipulated the press over and over again. After personally giving Piers the Ok to print a story to help girls suffering from slimming diseases she would complain the following day to the Press Association about the story and try to sue Piers after an over night rethink. I think we all saw on the Panorama interview how unbalanced this woman got. The Dodi pictures in the yacht of St Tropez showed how much she really needed that press and paparazzi she claimed to have despised.
Alistair Campbell, Blairs spinmatser-in-chief, was on the phone just as much as the royals, at first trying to set the Mirrors news agenda as the PM took Number Ten, then haranguing Piers as the papers direction changed, Morgan throwing up a brave and tactical spinnaker to catch the prevailing anti-war winds. Blairs media pledge to give the press new freedoms, quickly abandoned as they turned on the PM.
An integral part of the book is about that relationship between Blair and Morgan and how important newspapers are in getting the less intelligent people to vote for political parties.
Im not a huge fan of tabloid stuff but I do like it when hypocrites are exposed, however subtle that exposure is. Its interesting to read that however much Paul Gascoigne battered his stereotypical wife Cheryl, she was still addicted to being Pauls wife and all that press attention it brings, and like Diana, the classic contradiction of being an attractive woman in the modern day media. The question now is did Paul beat his wife because of that pity. Half off all the UKs female millionaires have attained that status through divorce.
After his move to the Mirror, bravely telling Murdoch thanks for the big break but Im off to another media group, it would be the buzz of a weekly newspaper that would invigorate Morgan. The Mirror was a struggling paper at the time, Morgan quickly turning it around to Newspaper of the Year with some huge scoops. Simple front pages like Man United 5 Newcastle 0 would bump circulation to a likewise audience. In 1998 as a fanatical [middle class] Arsenal fan he would enjoy printing the headline just for the North London run: Arsenal win the World Cup!. This was tabloid news at its base and best and would piss a lot of people off. Not even the Canary Wharf bombers could shake Piers from his convictions.
Madonna hit by flying Cheeseburger
Another exclusive by my excellent showbiz reporter Peter Willis. He threw it!
1997 would be Piers biggest story, Diana wiped out in that Paris tunnel to a drunken driver, her seat belt undone, champagne glasses wriggling around her blooded feet. We all remember how the story obsequiously affected the UK and for Piers it would be the true test of the man. As he says in the book, the death hit the media hard. Every newspaper editor and royal reporter was probably secretly in love with a women cut from the same cloth as them. Interestingly, at the time of Dianas death, although they quadrupled circulation, no one wanted to advertise in the papers-a critical income source for all printed press. Ironically Mother Teresa would die the next day, earning just half a page tribute in the Mirror.
The Mirror would capture the Paul Burrell exclusive, the camp butler who held all the secrets of this bizarre woman and some of her family ready to blab turning down five million from Murdoch to go with Morgan for 15% of that, the reason why Morgan spends a lot of champagne lunches forging relationships, seemingly the key to this game. Its surprisingly how well these guys live and the luxuries afforded to them. Theres a lot of flash parties on offer.
One of the shrewder tactics of being an editor is to entice certain people to sue the paper by writing scurrilous stories about them, then the court case revealing the real truth and more under oath.
Frank Bruno has invited 1800 people to his kids christening. Harry Carpenter is there and asks what the hell is going on. Frank is not well.
The bizarre death of Susanne Dando followed; obsequies grieving for someone the British public had never met all the rage now. The local fruitcake was stitched up with the murder, but the kill was very professional. Piers would use stories like this to become a more rebellious editor, now backing Blair as the Mirror went top the centre ground. Heather Mills-who Piers set up with Paul McCartney at the Mirror Best of Britain awards (probably deliberately for later juicy headlines)-seems to become the tabloids new Diana for the Mirror, much to her delight, the objective all along. With Madonna getting wrinkly and predictable then who else was there...
One of the Mirror and Fleet Streets longest serving female hacks has died-the tributes are pouring in. She used to say: Life aint much, but you have to get on with it. So stick a Geranium in your at and be appy!
Posh n Becks are, of course, an integral part of tabloid life also feature heavily in the book, clearly the type of reciprocal relationship that works well for both sides. The sport, too, is big in the Mirror, Arsenal fan Morgan only to keen to give Alex Fergusson bum steers and dodgy transfer stories to upset his players. He certainly enjoyed quoting most of Jap Staams damaging book verbatim, Arsenal overhauling United for the Premiership in the last month of that season.
One entry that did make me chuckle more than most is when the Mirror sponsored a hopeless boxer Julian Francis against bulldog Tyson, putting the Mirror logo on the bottom of the British fighters pants and feet, there for all to see when he was indeed repeatedly knocked down. Doubly hilarious as it was a SKY/Murdoch sponsored fight.
In the second half of the book Morgan talks about the Vigelin share issue, the one that could have landed him in court. Its a well known scam where business hacks get a share tip-off and then talk it up to boost the price, all concerned making a few quid. The police investigation involved all those who bought shares on the paper, including Morgan, and also resulted punch-up at the 2001 Press Awards, not the last Piers Morgan punch-up in the book, the Jeremy Clarkson one being the funniest.
911, of course, was the biggest story for Piers and his fellow tabloids, the new century dawning ominously, a story so huge it knocked Patsy Kensit off the front page! Piers seemed more concerned with Arsenals group game in the Champions League match on the following Wednesday night, though, as the dust and death swirled around Manhatten.
There were entries of levity at this time, too, Piers culture reporter having the clever idea of sending a few paragraphs of the last ten books to win the Booker Prize to Britains top publishing houses, all 18 returning them with rejection notes, some with snidely comments. All very bizarre and somewhat revealing.
As the Americans built the hype and lies to attack Iraq, Morgan, like the rest of the UK with a brain, were amazed why we were attacking a burnt out dictator and blaming him for 911. Yes he had the worlds second most gettable oil wealth but this would unseat govements and may cost Blair his job if he backs it. And with Geoff Buff Hoon leading the way there may not even be a Labour Party left after it.
March 31st 2003
The flag from the Pentagon on 911 briefly flies from Saddams statue in Baghdad, before both are pulled down for the same reasons, powerful images on our front page.
The last quarter of the book is heavily influenced by the growing rift between the paper and Blair, Cherie Blair particularly horrid. It also looks at the rift between Blair and Brown, and how Peter Mandelson received more sackings than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarter back (they had a particularly bad season). Mandy would have loved to be jumping on a quarterback.
Its hard to say if that was the reason piers went ahead with printing photos that always looked fake, he knowing the writing was on the wall by then, this his final parting gesture that summed up the war, everyone getting bullied and beating with false evidence. What ever the reason, like a marriage, some relationships just run their course.
Found out today that the Concorde service finished, not because of the crash but because 911 had killed and put off most of its core customers.
Its pretty entertaining stuff, not the tabloid waffle you would expect, a surprisingly good read. There are bits of the book that wander off into the celebrity stuff piffle, but, like the author and prospective reader, its intelligent and mocking comment rather than obsequious diatribe that attracts us. Piers lets us know which people he admires and which he doesnt. I kind of like that honesty. I mean there are plenty of people out there who would like to punch him on the snozzle-and some have already-so why not go for it here and say it as it was.
The diary format is ideal, page turning all the way through. His musings hop around on all subjects and so you are never board, exploring those important relationships between the press and their fodder, again a reciprocal handshake that cant be broken. In fact it quickly becomes clear that the even the A-list celebs are prepared to engineer photo calls when their press is bad with other papers, Diana particularly skilled at this hypocritical spin.
The most important thing here is the book is intelligent and interesting, giving us a viscous and bitchy inside look at the people in power and how they use the press to make their case. Its also intriguing just how much access a newspaper editor has to the A-List, the very people that are supposed to despise them.
You may not like Piers, but thats because you dont know him, this book-even though he wrote it-an honest appraisal of the man. The guy is just like you and me and made the most of a great job opportunity he probably never thought he would get. His views are our views and he gets to print them.
Im not a big fan of the Mirror but at least I got to know the man behind the headlines, who, quite frankly, is way smarter than I thought. If you are an open-minded, free thinking type then you will love this book. It really is addictive and reveling stuff for your lunch break or afternoon laze in the park in this beautiful weather.
This book is brilliant in so many ways. Firstly a behind the scenes look at the Murdoch empire and the inner workings of newspapers we are so familiar with - an invaluable insight.
Secondly a trip through recent history, summarising the big news stories - including the death of Princess Diana and other major events.
Thirdly, an amazing source of gossip - and this was just the stuff he as allowed to print! The way celebrities use the media is quite incredible!
If, like me, you thought Piers Morgan was a pompous twit who should never be given print or air space, I URGE you to read this amazing book - you will change your opinion. It's brilliant, and I have untold respect for him for surviving it all!!
I didnt buy this book and if it had been up to me it wouldnt have come into the house. I dont read tabloid newspapers and Piers Morgan has been editor of two of them. I dont like gossip (unless its particularly juicy) and Im not keen on giving money to people who make a good living out of selling it. Still, the book was there and I thought I might as well have a look just to see how dreadful it was.
Er, I couldnt put it down and read it cover to cover in less than forty eight hours despite being rather busy at the time!
At the age of 28 Piers Morgan was appointed editor of The News of the World. Hed been working on The Sun where he dropped his double-barrelled surname and caught the eye of Rupert Murdoch. Morgan was probably as surprised as anyone to get the job but it was the beginning of the eleven years which he spent editing first The News of the World and then The Mirror.
In a rather unlikely way the story begins with the end in 2004 when Morgan lost his job as editor of The Daily Mirror over the publishing of fake photographs of British troops abusing Iraqi civilians in Basra. There had recently been similar problems with American troops and the scoop was sensational if it had been true. So, how had Morgan got to the point where hed edited two national papers before he was forty?
The book is written in the form of a diary which begins in the final days of 1993. I enjoy this format because it gives you insight into what the author was thinking at the time rather than how he sees things with the benefit of hindsight. Unfortunately this is where my doubts about this book as an accurate recollection of events, rather than entertainment, surface. You see, Piers Morgan didnt keep a diary. What he kept were boxes into which he piled anything which he thought might be interesting. When one box was full, another was started. So, the facts of what happened are probably reasonably correct, but the thoughts, the conclusions have almost certainly been coloured by subsequent events.
The events, though, are pretty exciting ones. Theres the election of the first Labour government for decades, the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, 9/11, Bushs war on terror and the invasion of Iraq. Interspersed are all those minor events which we soon forget about, such as the naked man who landed on the roof of Buckingham Palace, Hugh Grant caught with the prostitute Divine Brown and the trials and tribulations of Paula Yates. What did come through to me was what unremittingly hard work the job of editing a national paper really is. On top of the long hours theres the responsibility to the owner of the paper, the readers and, not least, to the people whom youre writing about. Add to this the social obligations, which seemed to consist of eating in superior restaurants and getting drunk on a very regular basis and its a job thats going to take its toll on the blood pressure and the liver.
Ive always thought that some people became celebrities not because they are better than the rest of us, but because they are generally prepared to behave more outrageously, so the stories about the likes of Jeremy Clarkson, Jordan and Paul Gascoigne came as no shock to me. Its disheartening, though, to see it spelled out in print and to realise that they make a good living despite, or sometimes because of their lifestyle. What did disappoint me was to realise that in Alastair Campbell the Prime Minister was, for many years, represented by a foul-mouthed yob. I thought less of him and much less of Blair after reading this book.
I had more liking for Piers Morgan than I started with. Most books of this type are written along the lines of I was right and they were all wrong. I never was. Morgan says early in the book that he will admit his mistakes as well as signing his own praises. Hes willing to spell out where his judgement was wrong and even where his behaviour was just plain crass. There is a little insight into his private life, but only to the extent that I gathered it wasnt a great success. His brother is a Major in the army and fought in Iraq which provides a stark contrast to Morgans own views about the illegality of the war.
My husband found this book laugh-out-loud funny when he read it. I cant say that I found it that humorous although it did frequently appeal to my sense of the ridiculous. Morgan appears to be indiscreet, but I sense that the revelations have been carefully balanced and theres little that couldnt have been gleaned from assiduous reading of tabloid newspapers over the years. What I did find enlightening was the detail about how tabloid journalism works. Honour doesnt seem to come very high on the list of priorities.
There is one person in the book who frightened me and thats Rupert Murdoch, simply because of the power which he has in this country despite being neither a UK national nor any form of elected representative. He has extensive media interests and can effectively control much of the information which is fed to readers. I dont think its any stretch of the imagination to say that he is capable of choosing which party is elected to govern and ensuring that it comes about.
One point about the book did annoy me and thats the Cast of Characters. This is supplied in addition to the usual index and is an alphabetical list of characters by first name. To maintain the relaxed diary format people are frequently referred to by their first name and unless you can work out who it is you have to refer to the Cast of Characters. Even then it can be confusing: Bill can be Anslow, Bateson, Clinton, Deedes or Shankly. Frankly, I think its lazy writing and more of an attempt could have been made to make the main text clearer.
I read the paperback version of the book and found it physically difficult to read. The font is what I would call under forties. Its fine if your eye-sight is perfect, but not easy otherwise. Neither my husband nor I could read the page numbers or chapter headings and these are not problems which we normally have. There are several pictures in the book of people or of front pages but reproduction was rather blurred.
Id recommend the book if you want some fast-food reading its quick and tasty to get through but you probably wont feel great after it. Go for it if you want to know that people in the public eye are often worse than those who are not, but leave it alone if youre looking for anything deeper.
Paperback 496 pages (September 8, 2005)
Publisher: Ebury Press
Price: £7.99 but available from Amazon for £3.99 in December 2005
Piers Morgan was promoted to Editor of the News of the World in 1994, after working for the owner in a relatively junior capacity. While there he was headhunted by the Daily Mirror, and as he preferred to be the editor of a daily, was pleased.
He kept notes of his ten years as editor of both papers, and after he was sacked from the Daily Mirror job, wrote this book. He thanks his ex-employers for giving him the time to write about his experiences.
I would most recommend this book to people who read tabloid papers, so that they can find out what motivates the journalists, and also to would be journalists, so that that can learn some of the tricks of the trade. The book should also be appreciated by anyone interested in modern British history and sociology.
I haven't read any individual paper regularly recently, as I prefer the internet and television sources of news, because they are capable of being kept more up to date. I have looked at a variety of papers that friends have bought though, ranging from The Sun to The Times.
Having read the work of a wide variety of journalists, I found this book at times enlightening, and at times irritating, but I was fascinated enough by it to keep reading, as most of the time I found it great entertainment.
Celebrities, who use the press, should expect the press to use them back, so these sorts of stories were the ones I enjoyed the most. I thought it great that Morgan got a taste of his own medicine on occasions, for example when it was alleged that he was having an affair with Paul Gascoigne's girlfriend. Morgan says it wasn't true, and I think it would have been very silly of him to have an affair with the girlfriend of a potentially violent and very volatile man. I chuckled all the way through this story, though.
There is very little of Morgan's private life in the book, but you do get odd glimpses of it.
After Morgan had children of his own, he claimed to have more of a conscience towards potential stories involving children, but most of the time he seems to keep any conscience he may have about upsetting people well hidden. He does try to stay the right side of the law, and his employers though, for practical reasons.
It was upsetting too many people that got him the sack, but if he hadn't been willing to take calculated risks in letting stories and photos go to print, then he may well have got the sack for not producing a paper that people wanted to buy in enough numbers. This begs the question do we get the press we deserve? I had better not elaborate on that here, as that question deserves a whole review to itself, but this book would provide some of the evidence needed for a debate of that subject.
It is ironic that during the period when the sales of the Mirror were at their highest, during Morgan's reign, it was losing money, because of the loss of revenue from advertisers. They did not want their goods and services on the same pages that were conveying the tragic news about Diana's death.
Morgan compares the editor of a tabloid's job to that of a fighter pilot, "Trying to kill the opposition and avoid being killed yourself. Eventually, the chances are you're going to crash and burn. But what a ride while it lasts!"
Lessons for potential journalists include, what to do when you find out that a celebrity wants to make their opinions public against the advice of their chief press officer. One logical answer is, of course, have the press officer watched to find out when they go on holiday, and then approach the celebrity. If this cause of action works, and the press officer feels they should then resign as their advice has been ignored, so much the better, as it might make it easier to get quotes from that celebrity in the future.
We learn about the ways in which the Labour Party got used to The Mirror being kind to them while they were in opposition, but The Mirror felt their readers didn't want them to be lenient with them any more when they were running the country.
A lot of politicians feature in the book from all parties, but the most prominent character is Tony Blair, who deliberately meets with Morgan a lot. I was especially entertained by the difference in atmosphere at these meetings between when there was just the two of them, and when they also had the company of the spin-doctors and/or Cherie Blair.
The royals, show business, sports and business celebrities also get Morgan's attention.
There is A Cast of Characters at the back of the book, with short descriptions of them in their most recognisable role.
The relationships between the papers, was also interesting to me, whether these rivalries were between the same owner's papers or not.
What should an editor do if he thinks a rival has a great scope? Also what should he do if he thinks someone is trying to spoil his exclusive? Read the book and you will find out Morgan's likely answers.
I have deliberatively tried not to give too much away in this review, because I don't want to spoil the enjoyment of any potential readers of these memoirs.
It is written in an easy to read style, and I don't see it winning any literary prizes, but for those wanting something extra to this, try reading between the lines.
I think both those who just want a quick read, and those who want some food for thought could enjoy it.
I found the diary style made it easy for me to read as much as I had time for in one sitting. I kept it handy so that even if I only had five minutes to spare I could continue enjoying it. I also read big chucks at more convenient times.
If you don't mind lining the pockets of a sacked journalist, who I think comes over as opinionated and smug but funny, and you like the sound of what you have heard so far, go and buy the book for yourself, or as a stocking filler for someone who might lend it to you. You could even really splash out and buy more than one.
Morgan hopes that, "You laugh a lot as you read my story." I hope you do too.