Issue # 143 – Life on Mars at the typewriter

Life on Mars at the typewriter

By Matt Huber

If you want one take on the recent state of British journalism and to laugh rather than cry, Colin Dunne’s story of his life and times on the road, at lunch and at the typewriter is the book to buy.

He mirrors a working way of life that is now all but history.

Fleet Street was more than an address; it was an entirely creative and, allegedly, commercial culture. It represented the might of journalism – national, regional and local, evening, daily and weekly – when newspapers first built up and then reflected the national mood; sold millions; changed attitudes; even toppled governments.

What today’s reporters, anchored by cost controls and falling circulations to their desks, lunching on sarnies over the keyboard and downloading celeb copy from the internet, can only marvel at is that many Fleet Street reporters, writers, even editors of yesteryear got the job done at all, bearing in mind all the bars propped, glasses emptied and enduring fog of cigarette smoke.

From the Yorkshire dales via regional newspaper offices to the Fleet Street of the Daily Mirror and the Sun, Colin Dunne for decades lived through this time capsule of newspaper journalism while writing – humorously and always lightly – about the odd, peculiar, funny and the downright ordinary. Now he has turned his cuttings book into his own working life story. It’s a cliché to say readers will laugh out loud and no newspaperman would ever reach for a cliché – so let this one highly entertained reader say it instead.

Man Bites Talking Dog could perhaps be called Life on Mars at the typewriter.

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By John Kay

This is simply one of the greatest books ever written about newspapers – and the men and women who produce them. It is also hilariously funny and crammed with witticisms and delicious anecdotes. As a writer, Colin Dunne is right up there with Evelyn Waugh , P G Wodehouse, and Tom Sharpe as a comic genius. Even ‘civilians’ – people with no newspaper connections – would find it a tremendous read.

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By Neville Stack

The newspaper industry will never be the same again. Thank goodness.

But for those of us who lived to tell the tale of those vintage times the memories tend to be tragic (divorce and early death) and/or a hoot.

Colin Dunne, one of the great names of journalism in the Lunatic Years, when even editors didn’t get fired for being drunk in charge of a newspaper, has dusted off his keyboard to recall some of the highlights and low lifes.  And some of the worthies and unworthies of our so-called profession.

Man Bites Talking Dog is hilarious, sometimes poignant. I was with him some of the time and I can testify that it happened more or less as he says. The book proves that truth is funnier than fiction.

In fact, you couldn’t make it up.

Honest.

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