Pandora: Blackballed: Conrad savages new Murdoch biography

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The Independent Online

Rupert Murdoch's biographer has found himself on the receiving end of a literary right hook from one of the media tycoon's long-standing rivals.

Conrad Black, the former Daily Telegraph proprietor who spent years locked in a bitter price war with Murdoch's Times, has given a critical mauling to Vanity Fair journalist Michael Wolff's recently published book, The Man Who Owns the News.

Yesterday, Black submitted a detailed review of the tome from the federal prison where he is currently serving a 78-month jail sentence for fraud to the US-based website, The Daily Beast. He writes:

"Wolff wades through a confusing and clichéd account of Murdoch's life, replete with factual errors, serious omissions, mind-reading suppositions, extreme psychological liberties, and the conclusion that Murdoch will be 'temperamentally compelled' to try to acquire The New York Times, and buys newspapers 'to change himself'. I don't think so."

Surprisingly, considering the occasional animosity between the pair over the years, Black offers several points of defence for Murdoch, who at one point he describes as "quite pleasant, though he is also one of the very few completely ruthless and totally cynical people I have known."

Two years ago, Black was the subject of his own, albeit unauthorised, biography written by the investigative journalist Tom Bower. He described that book as "vindictive, high-handed, contemptuous, sadistic, pathologically mendacious and malicious".

Who's not behaving badly?

David Morrissey is considered a shoo-in by some bookies to replace David Tennant as Doctor Who, but one of his co-stars in this year's Christmas special isn't so sure. Dervla Kirwan, who is married to Spooks eye candy Rupert Penry-Jones, reckons it's an open field.

"I don't know if it will be David Morrissey," she tells me. "I think there is a shortlist of six. Possibly Martin Clunes, Paterson Joseph or James Nesbitt. My favourite would be Clunes because he is such a contrast to David Tennant and they need someone different."

Kirwan, who was attending a carol service for Cancer Research UK, added: "I am seeing Russell T Davies this week and I am sure he knows exactly who they want."

Pike's not just a pretty face

Rosamund Pike has been selected to sit on the judging panel at this year's Costa Book Awards.

Usually, such glamorous appointments are met with the sighs and accusations from leather-elbowed literary types that it's another sign of dumbing down. On this occasion, their moans would be misdirected.

"Rosamund studied English lit at Oxford so she's hardly just a token celebrity," says a chum.

"As I remember, she got a pretty respectable 2:1 – she's certainly no dope."

Incidentally, the actress studied under the esteemed poet Bernard O'Donoghue. He was once the recipient of the Costa prize's predecessor, the Whitbread award.

Estelle's no fan of Paxman

Jeremy Paxman may leave politicians quaking in their boots, but not hip-hop star Estelle. She isn't happy about the way Paxo spoke to her fellow rapper, Dizzee Rascal, during a Barack Obama Newsnight special.

"I was like, 'He is taking you for an idiot,'" she tells this week's New Statesman.

"That was out of line. Paxman's not going to get away with asking me do I think I'm British. That's disrespectful – what do you think I am?"

Strachan gets to stretch his legs

Ian Strachan revealed himself to be one of the London social scene's foremost chancers this year when he was sent down for five years after attempting to blackmail a member of the Royal Family.

Surprising, then, to hear rumours Strachan has been seen out and about. According to his brief, Giovanni Di Stefano, it's because Strachan is in an open prison. "As a matter of law he is in custody but as a matter of fact he is within the community more than within the compounds of a jail."

Gordon shuns the Post Office

Not only does Gordon Brown want to chop 50,000 jobs at the Post Office, his party won't even support the workers by sending out proper cards.

This year's offering from the Labour Press Office was sent out yesterday in the miserly form of an "ecard".

Predictably enough, there's absolutely no mention of Christmas in it either.