Did You Really Shoot the Television?: A Family Fable

By Max Hastings

The extraordinary story of the eccentric family of Britain’s most outstanding military historian, Max Hastings.

The author is the son of broadcaster and adventurer Macdonald Hastings and journalist and gardening writer Anne Scott-James. One of his grandfathers was a literary editor while the other wrote plays and essays, and penned an enchanting memoir of his own Victorian childhood. His great-uncle was an African hunter who wrote poetry and became one of Max’s heroes. The author tells a richly picaresque story, featuring guest appearances by a host of celebrities from Thomas Hardy and Joseph Conrad to John Betjeman and Osbert Lancaster, who became Anne Scott-James’s third husband. ‘All families are dysfunctional’, Anne asserted impenitently to Max, but the Hastingses managed to be more dysfunctional than most. His father roamed the world for newspapers and as a presenter for BBC TV’s legendary Tonight programme, while his mother edited ‘Harper’s Bazaar’, became a famous columnist and wrote bestselling gardening books.

Here, the author brings together this remarkable cast of forebears, ‘a tribe of eccentrics’, as he himself characterises them. By turns moving, dramatic and comic, the book portrays Max’s own childhood fraught with rows and explosions, in which the sudden death of a television set was only one highlight. His story will make a lot of people laugh and perhaps a few cry. It helps to explain why Max Hastings, whose family has produced more than eighty books over three generations, felt bound to follow their path of high adventure and popular journalism.

Format: Paperback
Release Date: 28 Apr 2011
Pages: 288
ISBN: 978-0-00-727172-6
Max Hastings is the author of twenty-six books, most about conflict, and between 1986 and 2002 served as editor-in-chief of the Daily Telegraph, then editor of the Evening Standard. He has won many prizes both for journalism and his books, of which the most recent are All Hell Let Loose, Catastrophe and The Secret War, best-sellers translated around the world. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, an Honorary Fellow of King’s College, London and was knighted in 2002. He has two grown-up children, Charlotte and Harry, and lives with his wife Penny in West Berkshire, where they garden enthusiastically.

”'Richly rewarding…A minor masterpiece. His portrait of his absurd and loveable father is extraordinarily touching; that of the failure of his relationship with his mother scarcely less so. The book is extremely funny in places, extremely poignant in others and extremely well-written throughout - in fact, I haven’t enjoyed anything so much in ages.” - Sunday Telegraph

”'Elegiac, reflective and very funny.” - TLS

”'Highly engaging” - Independent

”'Funny and moving…Few [memoirs] are written with as much skill and sensitivity as this one. Moving without being mawkish, Hastings’s book is a trove of marvellous stories” - Sunday Times

”'This brave and poignant book is the self-portrait of an extremely talented outsider who has spent his life trying to live up to his father’s achievements. It is also the emotional journey of a son’s heart-rending non-relationship with his mother.” - Daily Telegraph

”'In this slim, delightful book [Hastings] reveals himself as never before.” - Andrew Marr, FT

”'A brilliantly entertaining book, full of funny, well-told stories.” - Scotsman