JANUARIUS MacGAHAN: The Life and Campaigns of an American War Correspondent by Dale Walker

JANUARIUS MacGAHAN: The Life and Campaigns of an American War Correspondent

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

The first, and engrossing, biography of the man who transformed war reportage into what has become the norm for the genre today; by a Jack London scholar, author of Will Henry's West (1984) and 11 others. For a mere seven years, from the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 until his death at 33 in Constantinople in 1878, MacGahan roamed the world as correspondent for James Gordon Bennett's New York Herald and the London Daily News. By utilizing the newly perfected telegraph, the correspondents of the period--MacGahan, in particular--turned news-gathering into something resembling the almost-instantaneous reporting we have come to expect. Perhaps the greatest coup of MacGahan's career was when he reported on Turkish atrocities committed against rebellious Bulgarian nationalists. His highly inflamatory articles alerted the world to the carnage, eventually toppled the Disraeli government in Britain, and earned the American the title of ""Liberator of Bulgaria."" He also covered Russian campaigns in central Asia, Carlist offensives in Spain, and an Arctic expedition under Sir Allen Young sent to search for the Northwest Passage. Walker is able to capture in lively prose the welter of events that marked his subject's brief career. Unfortunately, he is less successful in bringing MacGahan's interior life into focus. Born in Ohio of Irish-Catholic parents, MacGahan proves something of an enigma. Married to a Russian woman encountered during one of his assignments, the American seems to have been distant and somewhat repressed. Seemingly more comfortable around a bivouac campfire than beside the domestic hearth, he allowed his wife and son to be shunted about the world with scant concern for their comfort. In Walker's telling, there is little attempt to get beneath the skin of this coldly obsessed adventure-seeker. Quibbles aside, however, this is a constantly involving portrait of an American journalist who deserves to be better known in his native land. Sure to interest news-burls and aspiring Ernie Pyles.

Pub Date: April 30th, 1988
Publisher: Ohio Univ. Press