Reading corner: A Dying Breed

A Dying Breed

By Peter Hanington

Two Roads

A Dying Breed is one of those books that is so good, so well-written, that one wonders how on earth this is Peter Hanington’s first.

Set primarily in Kabul, Afghanistan, it mixes the worlds of politics and broadcast journalism to great effect – drawing on the author’s accumulated knowledge from 14 years on BBC radio’s flagship Today Programme. But there’s much more to it than that. Rich characterisation and a huge amount of textured detail about the state of modern-day Afghanistan combine to make this a book to enjoy and learn from.

The story is centred around the frontline reporting exploits of William Carver, a veteran journalist who the BBC is trying to edge towards redundancy. Carver, though, knows a story when he sees one and soon realises that there is more than meets the eye to a recent bombing of a tailor’s shop in Kabul. Under Harington’s skillful pen we are plunged headlong into a conspiracy involving many colourful characters including the British ambassador, an infamous local warlord, a villainous British security ‘consultant’ and local Afghans aplenty. Readers are also treated to a many a BBC journalist and manager, and they can have some fun speculating as to who they might or might not have been based on.

Under Harington’s skilful pen we are plunged headlong into a conspiracy involving many colourful characters including the British ambassador, an infamous local warlord, a villainous British security ‘consultant’ and local Afghans aplenty. We are also treated to a many a BBC journalist and manager, and – British readers, at least – can have some fun speculating as to who they might or might not have been based on.

Hanington makes some salient points about the state of diplomacy today, particularly the emphasis on promoting and marketing the British private sector overseas. He also draws in references to Iraq – Carver is scarred by his experience of mistakenly reporting the existence of weapons of mass destruction – as well as the practical effect (both good and bad) of having journalists embedded with the military.

Such observations can only be truly conveyed by an exceptionally talented writer or someone who has actually been there. Fortunately for the reader, Hanington qualifies on both counts. Roll on his next book.