THE ASTONISHING MR. SCRIPPS: The Turbulent Life of America's Penny Press Lord by Vance H. Trimble

THE ASTONISHING MR. SCRIPPS: The Turbulent Life of America's Penny Press Lord

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Rippingly effective life of the founder of the Scripps news empire, Edward Wyllis Scripps, by Pulitzer-winning journalist Trimble, author of 1990's inoffensive Sam Walton. Where Trimble's Sam Walton had little to offer dramatically, Scripps bursts with story. Born in Ohio in 1854, Scripps was the 13th child of a failed London bookseller who tried time and again to break loose from Ohio farm life and failed at that as well. Scripps's half-brother James went off to Detroit and by age 34 was editing a Detroit newspaper. Scripps, a redheaded weakling heckled by schoolmates, spent half his waking hours in books, becoming steeped in the Bible and Shakespeare. As a youth, he showed a massive head for entrepreneurial skills and evaded farm work by hiring dumber kids to work for him. Lusting to be a reporter and put his reading to work for him, he joined his brother in Detroit. James thought little of him at first, but Scripps quickly sprouted news routes and kids to work for him, moving up from gofer to paragraph writer and finally to assistant managing editor by age 19. Then he got James to back his idea of a penny tabloid that undersold Detroit's nickel papers. Success here led Scripps to start up another penny paper in Cleveland. His papers broke with the stodgy news style of the day and sizzled with racy items and short takes, appealing to the blue-collar workers he sought as his main audience. Scripps's first downfall, while still in his 20s, came when he tried to take on the wily Hungarian tycoon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Joseph Pulitzer, who bought out Scripps's newsboys and stole their routes. An alcoholic, Scripps later built a castle in California rattlesnake country and died in hiding aboard his yacht off Liberia. His heirs will come into $1 billion-plus when their living trust expires early next century. Swift, very big, and overflowing with color.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1992
Page count: 552pp
Publisher: Iowa State Univ. Press