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Surviving the Press Gang

70 Crazy Years in Journalism

Surviving the Press Gang Les Watkins' biography exploring 70 Crazy Years in Journalism

From humble junior reporter on the Luton News to globe-trotting feature writer for the Daily Mail and a sometime television executive - this is Leslie Watkins - Les to his friends - reporting the news over seventy years. He tells of Fleet Street in its heyday revealing what went on inside the newspaper world, of scoop after scoop, fake news, murder and political corruption. Honest, humorous, surprising and sometimes tragic his journalist's eye view of the world, of breaking news, drink fuelled editorial feuds and dirty tricks lifts the lid on journalism's golden age.


  • Revealed why Arthur H. Fowler, a man who never existed, was regularly named in the Evening World and eventually, despite never living, had to be killed.

  • Read the story of Lord Porn and his female followers.

  • Was the report of bowler hatted beggars surrounding the White House, printed in the Daily Mail just fake news?

  • Speaking of bowlers, discover why celebrated cartoonist Keith Waite began adding characters in bowler hats to his cartoons - first one, then two then more each day.

  • Was President Jimmy Carter really told to grow a beard one inch long? The editor of the Daily Mail believed so and published the story.

  • Exposed - the politician who sold secret designs for Concord to the Russians and then pretended to die. His story was on news-stands across the globe.

  • Then there's Monty Fresco MBE, the award winning Daily Mail photographer, who 'kidnapped' boxing legend Mohammed Ali and took him to the wrong London park.

  • Sally Coxsedge of Hastings, England, sold the family's pet parrot. Why? Because during arguments, she says, it always took her husband's side.


But journalism isn't all fun and games, scoops and interviews. Sometimes a journalist becomes part of a story that's making the news.


"At twenty minutes past three in the afternoon the haggard man knew he was about to die. That was when he saw the guard coming across the dusty yard with the iron headed mallet. The soldiers dragged him to the middle of the yard, where the concrete was stained with the blood of yesterday. For a brief instant he glimpsed the blue of the sky - the tranquil and almost blue of eternity. Then the head of that terrible mallet was arcing down towards his face. His death scream was still hanging in the air when the flies started swarming hungrily in his brain."


Words written by Les after he was released from Kampala Jail and deported by African dictator Idi Amin's evil regime.


From being Father Christmas in London's Selfridges to exploring Asian brothels, interviewing politicians such as Margaret Thatcher and thirteen year old drug smuggler Tim Davey incarcerated in an Istanbul prison, the story of his assignments lays bare the human side of the newspaper men charged with getting the story.

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