Graham Lord boasts a journalistic career spanning 50 years, and his book, Lord of the Files, attempts to give readers a cross-section of his output.
It’s no easy task, as Mr Lord has written 19 books, plus newspaper articles too numerous to count. In this collection, which runs to almost 500 pages, there are short stories, excellent pieces of travel writing, personal reminiscences, opinion pieces for daily newspapers, and book reviews.
His longest period of employment was at the Sunday Express, where he was Literary Editor for 23 years (1969 to 1992) and he describes an idyllic existence of expense accounts that would cough up for foreign travel to interview literary figures anywhere in the world.
Even the UK writers were generally interviewed in Cannes or New York, although Graham made an exception for the tyro thriller writer Douglas Hurd MP, who had an office in 10 Downing Street.
Graham Greene in Antibes, Robin Maugham in Capri, Nicholas Monsarrat in Malta, Muriel Spark in Rome; the only reason to come back to the Express offices was the occasional tempting PR girl!
This is not a book to read if you are prone to envy.
However, on page 365 Graham says it could not go on, and financial controls came in as Fleet Street had a dose of fiscal reality. He left the Express to pursue a more individual writing career – and this started disastrously.
He found himself being sued by John le Carré – not for something he had written, but for something he was considering writing! It would have been interesting to know more details, but I assume the lawyers are still taking a view on that. The legal fees almost derailed his new life, but Fleet Street friends commissioned some opinion pieces that helped him keep his head above water.
He has included some of these in the collection and, to my mind, they are the weakest. There are several “what’s the world coming to?” rants. Health and safety, what’s the world coming to? Political correctness, what’s the world coming to?
Richard Littlejohn is still getting plenty of laughs out of these, but Graham’s, which are more serious, haven’t stood the test of time.
There are many areas that are much more interesting. Short story lovers will enjoy the examples included, and, when it comes to travel writing, he has the knack, with his eye for detail, of making the reader really feel that he is in some far-flung country.
However, Graham Lord is a Fleet Street man through and through and that is where the pieces really come alive.
There are several chapters devoted to the incorrigible Jeffrey Bernard (Graham wrote a biography, which Bernard did not exactly enjoy) where characters such as Keith Waterhouse and Bernard himself are vividly brought to life.
There are pieces of reportage covering a by-election in Newbury, the secrecy that marks Who’s Who, and a fascinating insight into what became of Graham Greene’s library after his death. An Ian Smith obituary features some startling information about the relationship between the Rhodesian ruler and his successor, Robert Mugabe.
There are more than 60 articles/stories in this book, so there has to be something for everyone. Lord, who spends part of the year in St Cézaire-sur-Siagne, has lived a full life and the varied works in Lord of the Files reflect this.