At the time, Arthur Hailey said his 1990 book, 'The Evening News' would to be the last book he would try and examine an American institution. "I'm now 70 (in 1990) and my health is not the best. My publisher (Doubleday) has offered me the same advance with no deadline for the next book. But a book takes 3 years of hard work. I plan to write 3 novellas at my own pace and publish them in one book." 

In 'The Evening News' ($21.95 in 1990, 564 pages), Arthur showed "life as lived by 2 competitive correspondents (anchorman Crawford Sloan and reporter Harry Partridge) for a television network (CBA-TV) obsessed with bottom-line accounting." Then President George Bush senior told the Associated Press he was reading 'The Evening News' by Arthur Hailey as "a relaxed kind of reading (because) most of my reading is formal and heavy going." 

Arthur made the point, "It was William Paley, who founded CBS, who pioneered the concept of a free and independent news department. I feel that I'm not alone in believing that the worst thing that could happen to television news was the takeover of the 3 networks (ABC, NBC and CBS) by large corporations. The company that owns the network in my book is fictional, but there's a lot of reality in the influence of the news by the conglomerates. It's inevitable when people have power. 

"I think, however, the competition between the networks will prevent a lot of it. NBC is now (in 1990) owned by General Electric, a major defense contractor. NBC used to do a lot of investigative report into defense spending. I wonder if they will continue to do that. When I started the book ('The Evening News') all I knew was that I wanted to write about television news and terrorists."

Arthur also added, "I felt terrorists from the Middle East had been written about too much and one producer told me about Peru and the Sendero Luminoso (the Shining Path), a group with ties to the drug traffickers." Reviewer Mary O’Hara Stacy of the 'Milwaukee Sentinel' remarked, "Arthur Hailey is true to form in 'The Evening News'. Once again, Hailey examines the personal and professional drama in the day-to-day operations of a major institution.

"Hailey is at his best in providing fascinating background information. In 'The Evening News', his accounts of the Horseshoe, the outsize desk seating the 12 people responsible for planning the network's news broadcasts, is colorful and complete. Readers will have a new appreciation for all of the people who work off-camera to make Dan Rather, Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw look and sound knowledgeable and authoritative." 

The 'Ocala Star-Banner' observed, "'The Evening News' is about television broadcasters and their battles to keep ratings and be the most important players in the game. The company controlling the broadcast station is the villain here and the behind-the-scene games are shocking even as they carry the ring of truth. Hailey has come up with a story as urgent as today's (back in 1990) headlines and as provocative as any he has done. Hailey has proven he can not only tell a great story but he can combine it with enough reality to make everyone reading his work aware that a lot of research and truth lurks on the pages." 

It was understood Arthur Hailey turned down film and TV mini-series offers for 'The Evening News'. In an interview with Marian Christy of 'The Boston Globe' in 1990, Arthur recounted, "When I went to school in Luton, England, in the '20s, the school system ended when you were 14. After that, schooling required fees. My father worked in a factory. There was no tuition money. So I applied for a scholarship. I was one of the 2 finalists. The other person got the scholarship.

"I wanted desperately to go on learning. Anything to avoid working in a factory! My mother scraped some money together, and I studied shorthand and typing in a night school course. My dream was to be a writer. I went to the local newspaper office to apply for a job. The personnel clerk said: 'But we don't take boys who have never been to high school.' You know something? I was never interested in algebra. I never cared to solve the puzzle of the mathematical x-factor. I always thought that the x-factor involved solving a storyline and deciphering the mystery and complexity of the characters caught in the plot."

At 19, Arthur Hailey enlisted in the Royal Air Force, "I always seemed to be struggling against not being formally educated. I wanted to be a pilot. But my absence of education was frequently pointed out. I did office work. Then Britain became desperate for pilots. Standards were lowered. Finally I was trained as a pilot. Then I became a flight lieutenant.

"The day I crossed the doorway into the officer's mess something wonderful happened. I was treated as an equal. No one questioned my educational background! Everyone assumed that I had a formal education. It was like crossing the threshold of myself. I didn't get carried away with conceit. But it was psychologically freeing. I felt inspired.

"Not only did I begin to write stories, I wrote poetry. I didn't know I could write poetry. When I read about prisoners of war being returned to Great Britain, lines like this just came to me: 'No lend lease in her cargo, no arms for a nation's store. Only some human driftwood, washed up by the tide of war.' I didn't make any money when I wrote poetry. It didn't matter. I was writing.

"After the war, I settled in Canada. I wrote advertising and promotional copy. I'm a capitalist at heart. I wanted to make more money. One day my wife said to me: 'Why don't you do what you've always wanted to do? Why don't you write books?' I got apprehensive. Could I really earn enough to live on? I knew I could get published occasionally. But that's different from writing a book.

"I gave up a sure thing to do an unsure thing. It was not just something I felt I wanted to do. It was a deep, compelling feeling. This was something that I had to do. When I interview people for my books, everything is totally off the record. I get people to trust me. I never violate a confidence. I never tell people where I've been, who I've seen or what other people have said. You take notes. You're forming an actual interview.

"I interview people for fictional purposes. Nothing is actual. I never take notes. I tell the people I interview: 'Anything you tell me will be shaped and changed. No one will ever guess who you are or the people or the situations you tell me about.' When I talk to people, I keep my hands in the open. Everything is one-on-one. They can see that I don't write anything down. When the interview is over - usually within an hour - I rush off to some private place, like the men's room, to write down everything I remember. I've done a lot of scribbling in places like that."

"I find evil particularly interesting. Evil is destructive. Evil, in the form of a person or a body of persons, can produce murder. Adversarial evil is more interesting than good and bland. Everyone's life is involved in a conflict between good and evil. Even Jesus. The very center of the Christian religion is the crucifixion of Christ. What could be more adversarial than that?"

Blog Archive