HACKS by Christopher S. Wren


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 A New York Times correspondent (The End of the Line: The Failure of Communism in the Soviet Union and China, 1990, etc.) exposes the less-than-glamorous underside of his heavily mythologized profession. Imagine The Killing Fields with a laugh track. The ``hacks'' of the title are a drunken, wisecracking band of journalists covering a civil war in Equatoria, a fictional country bearing a vague resemblance to Angola. Their leader is T.K. Farrow, an aging print reporter feeling the first pangs of middle age. Hustling currency on the black market, running around the bush in search of stories, dodging government as well as guerrilla bullets, and contending with power-addled bureaucrats and inscrutable CIA spooks, the hacks exist in a state of suspended adolescence that's abruptly shaken up by the appearance of Cass Benoit, a plucky Canadian public-radio stringer. Cass's inexperience at first prompts jeers from the cynical hacks, but the pretty Canuck has the last laugh when she starts scooping her more seasoned competition. Before long, the hacks are receiving ``rockets'' from their editors wondering why Cass is sucking up all the good copy. Meanwhile, T.K. develops a serious crush on her, but work gets in the way as she repeatedly scoops him. Add to that a computer with dysfunctional e and t keys, a publisher who sends T.K. into the field with a teddy bear, and T.K.'s growing realization that he's too old for this business, and you have a formula for some hilarious satire on the romance of the dashing foreign correspondent. Wren's moral: good reporting requires a conscience and a degree of idealism, and viewing a foreign assignment as an excuse for a boozy high-testosterone camping trip is both arrogant and unprofessional. Unremittingly funny, savage--and even tragic--from beginning to end. Wren is never at a loss for an absurd situation or a touching moment.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-684-81413-7
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1996


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