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OF PRESIDENTS, PRIME MINISTERS, AND PRINCES: A Decade in Fleet Street by Anthony Holden



Pub Date: Sept. 12th, 1984
Publisher: Atheneum

Jimmy Carter acts the fool on the Mississippi, James Callaghan makes an ego-trip to India, Prince Charles is wiped-out in western Canada, Margaret Thatcher returns from China no wiser--and much too much more. British journalist Holden is the author of a quite respectable biography of Prince Charles; more to the present point, he has a connection with Harold Evans, the London Times editor hired and fired by Rupert Murdoch (viz. Good Times, Bad Times). Evans took Holden on at the Sunday Times in 1973, and lured him away from the Observer (where he was Washington correspondent) to the Times; when Evans was sacked in 1982, Holden quit. Now Evans has contributed a foreword to this ten-year collection of Holden pieces. They include other unflattering glimpses of celebrities on tour--with the exception of an accolade to Pope John Paul. There's a section of American reportage, centering on the 1980 election and the familiar foibles of Kennedy, Carter, Reagan--otherwise exhibiting Holden's penchant for snide asides (""the crowds waiting to greet the president are in place, fully one deep""), his occasional cheekiness (he asked Reagan if he dyed his hair, had a face-lift). There's also a section of heterogeneous British reportage (a Troy conclave, the contest for Oxford Professorship of Poetry, Holden's ""re-entry"" into Britain) with little American interest save, perhaps, for the write-ups of Prince Charles' engagement and wedding. A ""People""-section catches Agnew out (""He tells you he still signs 300 autographs a day. You look surprised. Well, would you believe thirty?""), puts William Styron to defending Sophie's Choice (the usual charges), and is creditably eclectic altogether--but never substantive or acute or original enough for preservation. So it is too with random bits of social commentary. Holden has a certain feel for pointed, status-conscious detail; but the best pieces here are no more than workaday examples of the venerable British lampoon.