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BOOK REVIEW: YOU CAN’T LIBEL THE DEAD

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Journalists everywhere are bound to get more than a few laughs out of the super relatable ‘You Can’t Libel the Dead’ – a book by ex-journalist Neil Benson, which is packed with dry humour, wit and many perky pearls of wisdom (as the title suggests).

The book sees Mr Benson share a colourful selection of ‘war stories’, collected during his 45 years as a journalist, as well as details of the many characters he has met during that time.

He is a man who is clearly passionate about the industry, and is grateful for his chosen career path, which has gifted him with a wealth of experience and opportunities – enough for an entire book in fact!

“The pay’s crap, but you’ll have a few laughs”, he says in the introduction, setting the tone for the book, which is refreshingly honest and easy to read, as well as being entertaining and informative.

However, despite being peppered with humour, there are also sobering moments of shock and horror in ‘You Can’t Libel the Dead’, as grisly, and often graphic details of some of Mr Benson’s biggest stories are relayed to the reader.

Autobiographical accounts of his career starting out, as well as his progression, journalistic highlights, and reasons for getting into the job in the first place are also explored at length, providing some fascinating insight into a career in the industry.

There are heavy sections in the book, which are balanced out skilfully with periods of light relief – immediate attention getters, which really make you laugh out loud.

“Some journalists get enter the trader because it’s their calling… in my case it was because I was good at English and there was a chance it might make me a bit more interesting to the opposite sex”, says Mr Benson, explaining his reasons for joining journalism as a spritely 19-year-old.

‘You Can’t Libel the Dead’, is written with great skill – and is essential reading for any journalist starting out in the industry.

It’s inspiring, but also informative and educational without being overly so. Such elements are eased gently into the book’s narrative, and mixed with an array of entertaining asides and anecdotes, which make them palatable and all the more enjoyable.

I’m a big fan of Mr Benson’s humour in this book, which often sees him poke fun at himself, and at the journalism industry in general, particularly back in the day. Despite its challenges, there’s rarely a dull moment, and things are always interesting – at least if this book is anything to go by…  

This is a man who’s been there, done that and got the T-shirt, and a voice definitely worth listening to. This book reads as love letter to the industry, a passionate memoir and a guide for those looking to take up the energising, and sometimes heavy torch which is journalism.    

As well as being a quirky little read for beginners, ‘You Can’t Libel the Dead’, is also a perfect pick me up for journalists who’ve been in the industry for years, looking for relatable content, a boost in morale or just a way to break up the day.

After over ten years in the job, I can confirm that it’s certainly done the trick! 

By Louise Steel 

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