DID YOU REALLY SHOOT THE TELEVISION?– Order it here
The extraordinary story of the eccentric family of Britain’s most outstanding military historian, Max Hastings.
The author is the son of broadcaster and adventurer Macdonald Hastings and journalist and gardening writer Anne Scott-James. One of his grandfathers was a literary editor while the other wrote plays and essays, and penned an enchanting memoir of his own Victorian childhood. His great-uncle was an African hunter who wrote poetry and became one of Max’s heroes. The author tells a richly picaresque story, featuring guest appearances by a host of celebrities from Thomas Hardy and Joseph Conrad to John Betjeman and Osbert Lancaster, who became Anne Scott-James’s third husband. ‘All families are dysfunctional’, Anne asserted impenitently to Max, but the Hastingses managed to be more dysfunctional than most. His father roamed the world for newspapers and as a presenter for BBC TV’s legendary Tonight programme, while his mother edited ‘Harper’s Bazaar’, became a famous columnist and wrote best-selling gardening books.
Here, the author brings together this remarkable cast of forebears, ‘a tribe of eccentrics’, as he himself characterises them. By turns moving, dramatic and comic, the book portrays Max’s own childhood fraught with rows and explosions, in which the sudden death of a television set was only one highlight. His story will make a lot of people laugh and perhaps a few cry. It helps to explain why Max Hastings, whose family has produced more than eighty books over three generations, felt bound to follow their path of high adventure and popular journalism.
‘Richly rewarding…a minor masterpiece…the book is extremely funny in places, extremely poignant in others and extremely well-written throughout – in fact, I haven’t enjoyed anything so much in ages’ Sunday Telegraph
‘Family histories can often be pretty deadly and journalists memoirs doubly so. Few of them, however, are written with as much skill and sensitivity as this one. Moving without being mawkish, Hastings’s book is a trove of marvellous stories’ Sunday Times
‘This brave and poignant book is the self-portrait of a supremely talented outsider who has spent his life trying to live up to his father’s achievements…what is beyond doubt is that Sir Max has exceeded the pinnacle of his parents’ aspirations for themselves’ Daily Telegraph
‘Regretful, wise and forthright…deals with unnecessary cruelties and self delusions and ends with a sense of completion and understanding’ Andrew Marr, Financial Times
‘Elegiac, reflective and very funny, Did You Really Shoot the Television is both a ceasefire and a reminder that families are rarely safe places for children to be’ Times Literary Supplement
‘Highly engaging’ Independent ‘[A] rollicking memoir’ Mail on Sunday
‘It’s a brilliantly entertaining book, full of funny well-told stories about his talented, eccentric, sometimes rackety predecessors’ Scotsman
‘Deeply moving…an intimate portrait of two people who made [Max Hastings] the great man he is’ Private Eye
‘This is Max Hastings’ most personal book to date, and for all his war reporting and newspaper reporting, it is his bravest…[he] tells his family’s story with great candour and a real newsman’s detail’ Country Life
PUBLICATION DATE: 28th April 2011
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