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Publisher's Summary

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning, best-selling author and preeminent investigative journalist of our time - a heartfelt, hugely revealing memoir of a decades-long career breaking some of the most impactful stories of the last half century, from Washington to Vietnam to the Middle East. 

Seymour Hersh's fearless reporting has earned him fame, front-page bylines in virtually every major newspaper in the free world, honors galore, and no small amount of controversy. Now in this memoir he describes what drove him and how he worked as an independent outsider, even at the nation's most prestigious publications. He tells the stories behind the stories - riveting in their own right - as he chases leads, cultivates sources, and grapples with the weight of what he uncovers, daring to challenge official narratives handed down from the powers that be. 

In telling these stories, Hersh divulges previously unreported information about some of his biggest scoops, including the My Lai massacre and the horrors at Abu Ghraib. There are also illuminating recollections of some of the giants of American politics and journalism: Ben Bradlee, A. M. Rosenthal, David Remnick, and Henry Kissinger among them. This is essential listening on the power of the printed word at a time when good journalism is under fire as never before.

©2018 Seymour M. Hersh (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“There’s gripping journalistic intrigue aplenty as [Hersh] susses out sources and documents, fences with officials, and fields death threats... Hersh himself is brash and direct, but never cynical, and his memoir is as riveting as the great journalistic exposés he produced.” (Publishers Weekly)  

“Candid and revelatory... Compared to the contemporary field of blogs, bots, and opinion-driven reportage, the last half of the twentieth-century can look like the heyday of honest and critical journalism. But even now, Hersh remains at the vanguard of tenacious and purposeful writers who speak truth to power, and surely he’s inspiring the best at work now. Journalism junkies will devour this insider’s account of a distinguished career.” (Booklist)   

“Outstanding... Rarely has a journalist's memoir come together so well, with admirable measures of self-deprecation, transparent pride, readable prose style, and honesty.” (Kirkus)

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Gripping and Important

People interested in recent U.S. history or in journalism will probably want to read this book. It is full of insights into the worlds of journalism, politics, the military, intelligence, etc., from the 1960s through today. Some parts, such as the My Lai chapters, are as gripping as the best spy stories, with the rewarding bonus that truth appears to be something that can actually be attained, at least sometimes, when the many barriers to uncovering and publishing it are overcome. The memoir focuses on these processes, and it is fascinating.

The tone is occasionally self-laudatory, but it feels deserved: Hersh's avowed ambition drove him to excel in his job and to serve the general public immensely.

At the outset you might feel quite pessimistic regarding systems—governmental, military and others—and there is a depressing feeling that investigative journalism is no less needed when a Kennedy runs the country than, say, a Nixon. But you also get a sense that individuals can, and will, make a difference. For that reason, the book left me cautiously optimistic.

The audio version is very well narrated by Arthur Morey, though I wished we could have had it in Hersh's wonderful, less polished, more urgent voice. It comes out as a bit ironic that a figure of the ultimate outsider—such an outsider that Hersh had no problem (and got much flak) revealing the cover-ups of Democratic as well as Republican establishments—should have his story told by a booming, all-American, seven-habits-of-highly-effective-people (to my ears at least, but otherwise excellent) voice. Hersh's tale and Morey's persona are both great enough that you only occasionally reflect about the discrepancy. (I kept a 5-star rating for performance as I believe the casting, not the performance, to leave room for improvement.)

One note of caution, in case you intend to listen to the book with your family or in class: some of the descriptions in the My Lai chapters are particularly gruesome. I believe the descriptions to be warranted (they say much about how war can turn men into barbaric creatures), but you might want to listen ahead before deciding whether your children or pupils can handle them.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful