Did You Really Shoot the Television

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.

Details

Format: Paperback
Release Date: 28/04/2011
ISBN: 9780007271726

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Almost all of us are intrigued by our own heredity. In this book, I’ve recounted the picaresque little saga of mine. The Hastingses weren’t at all important people, but they did some extraordinary and sometimes pretty weird things. And because they were writers for three generations, they wrote them down. When I did BBC’s Desert Island Discs back in 1986, I was pretty discreet about our tumultuous rows and my admittedly pretty awful childhood behaviour. But when my mother, Anne Scott-James, was DID’s guest at the age of 90 in 2003, to the audience’s delight and my toe-curling embarrassment, she regaled Sue Lawley with some horror stories, not least about my doings. For weeks afterwards, people came up to me in petrol stations and other unlikely places, asking: ‘Ere- did you really shoot the television ?’. It’s because people seemed intrigued by that question that I made it the title of this book. I’ll explain it in due course, but I want to make plain immediately that the victim was not a big set. Read More

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