Book Review: “Deadline Artists: America’s Greatest Newspaper Columns” by John Avlon, Jesse Angelo & Errol Louis
If you’ve been fruitlessly looking all these years for a big, fat book crammed with a cross section of the very best work of a variety of American newspaper columnists spanning many years: look no more.
The book you’ve been fruitlessly looking for is now here.
I’ve always loved columns and columnists and one of the hardest things to find was a book of columnists. Not a bio or a book that has columns by a single columnist, but a book containing a large cross section of must-read columns by many columnists. And even you got a book by one columnist, chances are some of the columns would be less than inspired because x number of pages had to be filled.
While in high school I interned on a weekly called The West Haven City News in West Haven, CT where I did reporting — and they let me try a column. Then, as a senior at Colgate University, I interned on The Hindustan Times Evening News in New Delhi and amid my desk job and occasional reporting they let me try a column on New Delhi life. Fast forward to some six years of freelancing in New Delhi and Madrid (with several trips to Dacca and Cyprus) after grad school in the 70s: doing stories and op-ed columns for newspapers all over the world (including some op-eds on The Christian Science Monitor and news related analysis columns for the old Chicago Daily News). Then to staff reporting jobs on the Wichita Eagle in Kansas and the San Diego Union in California: reporting jobs where each paper let me do an occasional-only special Sunday column (one in Wichita, two in San Diego). I was in reporting but my real, joy was in reading features (not local news) and columns.
Blog posts would never be accepted by most papers as columns, since most are hurriedly prepared, too narrow in topic and read that way. But I still loved columns and so my journalistic Bible became any book of columns by the late, great Chicago columnist Mike Royko which are still available
and must-reads (and are consistently great from page to page). Then, in September 2010 Cagle Cartoons invited me to do a nationally syndicated weekly column.
There still was no book that was a big, fat collection of columns from many years and many writers – a book that could be read, re-read and enjoyed for the columns themselves but also as a role-model collection for this quickly vanishing deadline art.
John Avlon, Jesse Angelo and Errol Lewis have put together a must-read, must-own and MUST-STUDY anthology of the very best of American columnists: “Deadline Artists: America’s Greatest Newspaper Columns.” It’s THE BOOK book for which column lovers, journalism lovers, and aspiring and practicing columnists have long been longing.
This is IT, folks…
It has gotten great reviews on Amazon(even though invariably some will quibble with the columnists selected and not included) and praise from columnists on both sides:
Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan calls it an “indispensable anthology of an American art form – a broad and brilliantly chosen compilation of the best newspaper column writing past and present – and a real feast. I couldn’t stop reading. The stories, yarns, insights and characters – the immediacy and passion – still resonate, still make you laugh, and think.”
MSNBC’s Mike Barnicle: “Columnists are like brilliant photographers using words to deliver an instant snapshot of history viewed through their own lens. John Avlon, Jess Angelo, and Errol Lewis have performed a huge public service by capturing hundreds of those moments with this collection.”
The columns written in varying styles, spanning several centuries, are organized into topics: war, foreign affairs, crime, humor, sports, civil rights, politics, local voices, farewells, hard times and the American idea of the pursuit of happiness. Among the many columnists: Mike Royko, Herb Caen, Jimmy Breslin, Murray Kempton, Ernie Pyle, Noonan, Thomas L. Friedman, Fanny Fern, Richard Harding Davis, Grantland Rice, Woody Guthrie, Red Smith, Russell Baker, Art Buchwald, William F. Buckley, Hunter S. Thompson, Barnicle, Pete Hamill, Steve Lopez and more.
It’s almost pointless to go into my many favorite columns from the book here, but after you’ve stopped reading you’ll remember columns such as Westbook Pegler’s “American Mussolini” column on the assassination of Huey Long and how American democracy may have dodged a bullet; James Reston’s GREATLY outdated column on “The Decisive Political Center”; Ernest Hemingway’s classic piece “Chicago Gang War”; Jimmy Breslin’s plea to the Son of Sam killer “Breslin to .44 Killer: Give Up Now”; several superb columns by Barnicle; Breslin’s gripping column on the Dallas emergency room handling of assassinated JFK on Nov. 22, 1963; Pete Hamill’s haunting, detailed column on the killing of RFK – and so much more.
You name the kind of column and style and it’s in “Deadline Artists.”
Buy it for yourself. Buy it for your library. Get a copy for your Kindle so you can carry it and read it and re-read it and – if you’re a writer – absorb it.
And, above all, appreciate it and the endangered art it displays, celebrates — and perpetuates.