Scoop after Scoop

Ian Jack

  • BuyDangerous to Know: A Life by Chapman Pincher
    Biteback, 386 pp, £20.00, February, ISBN 978 1 84954 651 5

In March this year the Daily Express sold an average of 488,246 copies a day. In 1945 it averaged 3.3 million copies – a figure that went on rising until it peaked in 1961 at 4.3 million. The Daily Mirror eventually overtook it (selling an average of five million copies in 1964), but for a time the Express was the biggest-selling newspaper in the world. There was a crackle and dazzle to it. Fleet Street had no more experienced and mischievous proprietor than Lord Beaverbrook, no more technically gifted editor than Arthur Christiansen, and few more celebrated reporters than the paper’s defence and science correspondent, Chapman Pincher. Out of the Express’s triumvirate of black-glass offices in London, Manchester and Glasgow came a torrent of newsprint that set the popular tone for the last days of imperial Britain, the ‘second Elizabethan age’ that was half-thrilled and half-terrified by Britain’s endeavours to build its own hydrogen bombs and jet airliners, worried about what the Russians were up to, and comforted by the Giles cartoon, the William Hickey column and The Adventures of Rupert Bear.

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