Notes from abroad

<strong>Looking for Trouble: the life and times of a foreign correspondent</strong>

Richard Beesto

Laced with the impossible glamour of dancing perilously with international politics, the course of Richard Beeston's extraordinary life is chaptered by bloody revolutions in Congo and Baghdad, gas attacks in Yemen, picnicking in Lebanon with journalist – and Soviet spy – Kim Philby and a mujahedin ambush in Afghanistan. He swaggers through a glory era of journalism with considerable dexterity, imbuing Looking for Trouble with sophisticated reportage, pace and a flair for capturing witty eccentricities in virtuoso anecdote.

But Beeston's wide-reaching and intelligent writing underlines a gaping void in today's journalism. When he arrived in Cyprus in the 1950s, "Britain was still the dominant power", yet the upcoming cold-war rivalries or a collapsing empire posed lesser evils to the nomadic journalist than today's religious animosities. Foreign shores were awash with correspondents bribing post office operators to file stories. Domestic audiences were fed regular foreign coverage that is scarce today. So although Beeston whips up nostalgia for a lost era of debonair crusaders, he delivers a dull thud of disappointment at the limited scope of contemporary journalism.