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A Good Life

This is the witty, candid story of a daring young man who made his own way to the heights of American journalism and public life, of the great adventure that took him at only twenty years old straight from Harvard to almost four years in the shooting war in the South Pacific, and back, from a maverick New Hampshire weekly to an apprenticeship for Newsweek in postwar Paris, then to the Washington Bureau chief's desk, and finally to the apex of his career at The Washington Post. Bradlee took the helm of The Washington Post in 1965. He and his reporters transformed it into one of the most influential and respected news publications in the world, reinvented modern investigative journalism, and redefined the way news is reported, published, and read. Under his direction, the paper won eighteen Pulitzer prizes. His leadership and investigative drive following the break-in at the Democratic National Committee led to the downfall of a president, and kept every president afterward on his toes. Bradlee, backed every step of the way by the Graham family, challenged the federal government over the right to publish the Pentagon Papers - and won. His ingenuity, and the spirited reporting of Sally Quinn, now his wife, led to the creation of the Style Section, a revolutionary newspaper feature in its time, now copied by just about every paper in the country.
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Executive editor of the Washington Post from 1965 to 1991, Bradlee helped remake the newspaper into the influential voice it is today. His fluid memoir ably recounts his rich life but offers few revelations (he claims he knew nothing of his friend JFK's promiscuity) and little deep self-criticism. Shaped more by his naval service than by Harvard, in 1951 the well-born Bostonian gave up a journalism job in Washington to become a press attaché in Paris, where he buddied up with Art Buchwald and moved to Newsweek. Transferred back to Washington, he was assigned to cover his neighbor JFK, who was then a senator, and rose to power at the magazine's newly purchased Post. Bradlee's tales of Watergate, the Pentagon papers and other big stories are told well enough, and he thoughtfully ventilates in-house debates on issues of privacy and national security. Candid about his marital difficulties and affairs, Bradlee found happiness in 1978 by marrying writer Sally Quinn; he's now involved in civic projects and fatherhood. First serial to Newsweek. (Oct.)

Bradlee, immortalized in the Watergate film All the President's Men, retired in 1991 after 26 years as executive editor of the Washington Post. This memoir, bluntly written and sprinkled with salty language, tells his life story, which included a close friendship with John and Jackie Kennedy. As colorful as Bradlee's personal life has been, the most interesting stories here are journalistic: Watergate with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, publication of the Vietnam-era Pentagon Papers, and the saga of Janet Cooke, a young Post reporter who had to return a 1981 Pulitzer Prize when it was discovered that her story of an eight-year-old heroin addict had been fabricated. For more of Bradlee and the Post, seek out In the Shadow of Power: The Story of the Washington Post, by veteran Post reporter Chalmers M. Roberts (Seven Locks Pr., 1989). Recommended for most collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/95.]‘Bruce Rosenstein, "USA Today" Lib., Arlington, Va.

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