Fleet Street’s Finest

From Evelyn Waugh to Michael Frayn, novelists have portrayed journalists as bibulous, cynical and slothful. But for Christopher Hitchens, the tales of “unredeemed squalor” and fiddled expenses evoke nostalgia for a vanished age.

  1. James Bond does not make an appearance until Part Two of what is perhaps his most polished adventure, From Russia with Love. And when he has been briefed by M and outfitted by Q, and told what is expected of him, he suffers a mild mid-life crisis. What, he asks as the plane takes him towards the Golden Horn, would his younger self think of the man now so "tarnished with years of treachery and ruthlessness and fear", sent off "to pimp for England"? Eventually dismissing this as an idle or feeble mood, he reflects further:

    "What-might-have-been was a waste of time. Follow your fate and be satisfied with it, and be glad not to be a second-hand motor salesman, or a yellow-press journalist, pickled in gin and nicotine, or a cripple - or dead."

    Yes, well, that seems to put the profession nicely in its place, and indeed in its context. I read those words when I was a schoolboy in Cambridge in the early 1960s and had already decided that only journalism would do...

The complete text of “Fleet Street’s Finest” is not in the Byliner library, but we love it so much we included an excerpt and a link to the full story on www.guardian.co.uk.

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