James Cameron




book review


James Cameron

AS A foreign correspondent, James Cameron was present at virtually every major event during the 20th Century's most crucial, world-shaping decades. He attended historic occasions like most people attend dinner parties.

Be it from Berlin, Africa, India, Suez, China, USA, Korea, Vietnam, Bikini Atoll or Hiroshima, he filed despatches first for the fabled Picture Post, and the News Chronicle and, of all things, the Daily Express. He acquitted himself not only as a writer capable of conveying the angst and horror of troubled regions but also as a man of compassion, humanity and insight.

He spent the last 10 years of his life (he died in January) completing a weekly column for The Guardian, it is from these that this book is compiled.

What emerges is an ageing man not pining for the lost daring of the past but thankful that he was able to spend his time doing what he did best (he never worked outside of newspapers), and now presenting his ruminations on affairs both worldly and (apparently) trivial in a manner made cogent by the very depth and variety of his experiences.

Travelling thousands of miles with a pet grass-snake in his pocket and given to praising bread coated with a veneer of Marmite, topped by peanut butter and thinly sliced onion, it seems Cameron enjoyed a measure of eccentricity just sufficient to put an edge on his perceptions. An edge perhaps denied to more normal, thoroughly rational folk.

Looking back over meetings with world leaders, it is the odd details that he picks out, the quirks and mannerisms that help define the real person rather than the statesperson wrapped up in the oratory of the moment.

Cameron himself often gave thanks that he was never employed in politics. Like Groucho Marx, he wouldn't want to be, in any organisation that would admit the likes of him. The closest he came was as President of the Shepherd's Bush Agrarian and Peasant Party. Of this he was also sole member.

Having witnessed three atomic blasts, which gave him nightmares for life, he owns up somewhat apologetically to being the world's first "bomb bore". But he ponders how different the globe might be if those whose fingers are poised over the buttons of destruction had also been present at such frighteningly elucidatory scenes.

On this matter Cameron claims ". . . not the right to argue but the experience to get wound up". Probably the keynote to these collected columns.


mick sinclair

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