Review: The Diaries of a Fleet Street Fox, By Fleet Street Fox
A vixen's life among the vermin
Emily Dugan is social affairs correspondent for The Independent, i and Independent on Sunday. She was previously a news reporter for The Independent on Sunday. Her investigations into human trafficking have twice been awarded Best Investigative Article at the Anti-Slavery Day Media Awards and her human rights journalism was shortlisted for the Gaby Rado Memorial prize at the 2012 Amnesty Media Awards.
Sunday 24 February 2013
Fleet Street Fox has become the tabloid truth-teller of the Leveson era; an inside mole who took to Twitter, blogs, and more recently her own column, in defence of her trade. If you are looking for the same sharp humour and bowel-movements-and-all honesty which made her an internet sensation, you will not be disappointed with this memoir.
It is billed as the "inner workings of a tabloid newsroom", but there are times when it is less an inside account of life on a red top and more a grizzly tale of bitter divorce.
This would all be straightforward if she was truly anonymous, but the Fox's identity was already Fleet Street's worst kept secret, and now she has outed herself in The Times as Susie Boniface. She has been a tabloid hack for nearly 20 years, the last 10 of them spent at the Sunday Mirror. In hundreds of interviews, she will have pressed her subjects to make sure every last salacious detail is committed to the page. This time the subject is herself, but it is almost as if she felt a red-top editor at her shoulder egging her on, urging: "Go on, add a bit more rubbish sex." Or: "Make sure you describe the moment you hit rock bottom, when you felt so bad your bowels were shot and you hid seafood in his furniture."
Boniface's ex-husband is referred to only as "Twatface" and the chapter headings are the number of days since their break-up. The book opens with her arrest, having thrown a flowerpot through the window of her husband's lover's flat. Her refusal to move on gracefully provides some hilarious detail, but it also begins to slow the pace of an otherwise enjoyable read.
Boniface is at her most entertaining when focusing on the excesses and quirks of journalism. The newsroom characters, painted with hilarious acidity, will be familiar types to anyone in the trade. There's the pervy photographer known only as "Minicab Rapist", and "Cubby", the health reporter who "disappears for hours at a time to 'meet a contact', in the shape of a bottle of Pinot Noir".
In an article earlier this month, Boniface wrote that although the book was "pretty raw" when she wrote it, the lawyer "had wiped most of the blood off its pages" by the time it was published. If this is the de-blooded version, the original must have been enough to make Tarantino blush.
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