Analysis of an assassination attempt

Regional Books

December 11, 2005|By CARL SCHOETTLER | CARL SCHOETTLER,SUN REPORTER

American Gunfight: The Plot to Kill Harry Truman - and the Shoot-out that Stopped It

Stephen Hunter and John Bainbridge Jr.

The Making of an Ink-Stained Wretch

Jules Witcover

The Johns Hopkins University Press / 368 pages

Jules Witcover may feel he's still an ink-stained wretch at 78, after a half-century in the news business. But he has loved every minute he has spent in newspapering. Or at least pretty many of them.

"I've spent thousands of hours sitting, drinking, singing, writing and only occasionally sleeping on whistle stop trains, press buses, and planes from New Hampshire to California," he writes.

There's a faintly elegiacal feeling about this book. He's an old-time, shoe-leather political reporter of a species that seems more and more endangered.

But in 1968, he was about 30 feet away when Bobby Kennedy was shot in the kitchen of a Los Angeles hotel. Witcover covered Richard Nixon for years before that last day in August 1974, when the disgraced president waved goodbye from his presidential helicopter.

Witcover is another alumnus of The Evening Sun, where he wrote a column with the brilliant Jack Germond from the early 1980s, when they survived the death of the Washington Star, until The Evening Sun died in 1995. He carried on with his column with The Sun after Germond retired - until the column was dropped earlier this year.

The first paragraph of his book says that "unless you're an old political junkie who knows the difference between H.L. Mencken and Walter Lippmann, you've probably never heard of me."

He many be right. Historical memory in the news business is very short indeed. Perhaps the only thing more ephemeral than yesterday's newspaper is yesterday's newspaper man or woman.

Reading An Ink-Stained Wretch demonstrates what we lose.

carl.schoettler@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Carl Schoettler writes about books of Maryland interest each month in The Sun.

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