Top five newspaper novels
The events of the past few weeks, with the escalating tabloid phone-hacking scandal and closure of the News of the World, have shone a light on some of the murkiest corners of newspaper publishing.
Yet for decades novelists, many of them ex-journos themselves, have used the newsroom as a handy source of plots and characters, from George Gissing's 1891 novel New Grub Street to Ian McEwan's Amsterdam to Stieg Larsson's political publisher and freelancer Mikael Blomkvist in The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo.
The books below are all top reads about the business of publishing news...
The Closed Circle
Jonathan Coe's 2004 novel follows his much-loved 1970s-set The Rotters Club. The characters are now 25 years older and living in turn-of-the-millennium Britain, where the fervour of New Labour has subsided into disaffection. Doug Anderton - an ardent socialist in The Rotters Club - now lives in Chelsea, fathers ludicrously-monikered children and writes occasional patronising centre-left copy for a national broadsheet newspaper. Meanwhile, Philip Chase (the best friend of inept protagonist Ben Trotter) writes for his local paper, the Birmingham Post, most notably a shocking exposé of the racism endured by an old school friend.
Evelyn Waugh's 1938 Fleet Street satire is set in the environs of the Daily Beast newspaper, run by magnate Lord Copper. Young nature columnist William Boot is confused for the paper's foreign correspondent and sent to the fictional African state Ishmaelia, seemingly on the brink of civil war - where he gets the scoop of his life. This witty classic skewers newspaper editors' lust for hot news, and inspired the name of the American news site founded by former Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown.
The Devil Wears Prada
Set in a magazine office rather than newsroom, The Devil Wears Prada follows young journalist Andrea Sachs, whose ambition is to write for the New Yorker, but she instead lands a job as the assistant to Miranda Priestly, editor of fashion magazine Runway. Beleaguered by demands from her "devil" of a boss, and aware that "a million girls would die for [her] job", Andrea soon gets sucked into the glamorous but bitchy and self-obsessed world of fashion. Can she make her way out again? The novel, made into a blockbuster film, was inspired by author Lauren Weisberger's experiences as an assistant to American Vogue editor-in-chief Anna "Nuclear" Wintour.
My Turn to Make the Tea
In her memoir My Turn To Make the Tea, Monica Dickens, the great-granddaughter of Charles, recounts her time as a journalist on a provincial paper in the 1950s. Harking back to the days when printers arranged blocks of "type" by hand and hacks chain-smoked over their typewriters, it is the hilarious story of a young harem-scarem journalist dealing with "death-knocks", local council a.g.m.s and squabbles over which embittered hack has to write "Kiddies' Korner" this week. And, of course, whose turn it is to make the tea.
Fleet Street Girl
A special mention must go to another '50s book, Fleet Street Girl by F.E. Baily. This brilliantly kitsch novel tells the story of Iris Paradine, a beautiful young reporter who follows her father into journalism - and finds herself dealing with the moral quagmire of news reporting. More importantly, in this pre-"Mad Men" era, she must deal with the evergreen marriage-versus-career question as the men she meets are enchanted by her charm and talent. I found my copy in a second-hand sale, picking it up purely for the swoonsome jacket.