Max Hastings’s parents were both journalists of some renown, and his father, Macdonald Hastings, seems to have been in the habit of giving him advice about the writing business. He once urged his son to ‘learn to respond to the challenge of a blank sheet of paper’. Superfluous advice in that family, surely. Was there ever a member of the Hastings tribe who did not delight in filling up that blank sheet? Between them they have written more than eighty books over three generations. This is Max’s twenty-second book. The Hastings stable has also produced innumerable articles, newspaper columns, book reviews and so forth, not to mention all the television programmes of one sort or another. It is a rare family record.
In spite of its jokey title, this latest addition to the Hastings oeuvre is not a flippant work. It is a candid slice of autobiography, combined with sketches of some other members of the family. Prominent among these is Max’s mother, Anne Scott-James, a columnist and magazine editor