There are quite a few novels written by current and former journalists but I’d be hard pressed to think of a crime book that has brought alive so vividly the passion and politics that goes into producing a radio news programme. Peter Hanington has worked on BBC Radio 4’s Today for fourteen years and has used his experience to interweave the intricacies of putting a news story together with a crime plot set in Afghanistan.
William Carver is a veteran journalist that the BBC is trying to make redundant. He goes to Afghanistan and is sleeping off a hangover when a bomb goes off which kills a prominent local official. Back in England Rob Mariscal, the editor of Today strikes fear into all who work for him, including young producer, Patrick Reid, who is desperate to make his mark in his job. Patrick is sent to Afghanistan to keep an eye on Carver but runs into a conspiracy involving influential stakeholders who don’t want Carver to run his story.
A Dying Breed is a fascinating book. It’s extremely well written and, unusually for me, I enjoyed the incidentals about news production as much as the crime story itself. Bureaucracy within the BBC is shown as demoralising and stifling creativity and egos abound amongst its personnel. Hanington is much warmer towards the people of Afghanistan and the daily struggle they endure while under the scrutiny of politicians and the media worldwide. Particularly well drawn is Karim, Carver’s fixer in Afghanistan who is invaluable to win in his work.
There are some amusing moments for speculation for those of us familiar with BBC news, even on the outside. Who is news presenter and face of the Ten O’Clock news John Brandon based on, for example? I’m sure this is the start of a bright new career for Peter Hanington. A Dying Breed is an excellent read and distinguished by bright, clean prose that never gets in the way of the story. It’s a little bit different from other crime novels out there and I’d highly recommend it.