Salisbury begins this account of his personal odyssey through the events of our times on a plane returning from North Vietnam, anxious about his reception back in Washington and worried about his future with the TIMES. His narrative does not confine itself to his Vietnam War experience, however, and he takes his readers with him on a series of assignments across the United States during the Civil Rights protests of the 1950’s, on the political circuit--there are insightful sketches of various presidents from Dwight Eisenhower through Ronald Reagan--and finally behind the scenes at THE NEW YORK TIMES to witness the infighting that bedevils America’s greatest newspaper. Along the way Salisbury manages to get married (for the second time), convey his personal views on freedom of the press (it should be absolutely free, almost), and reveal his abiding confidence in the American system (in spite of its abuses at the hands of contemporary politicans). It is a dizzying and wonderful trip.
The highlight of the narrative is the series of dispatches on the war in Southeast Asia which Salisbury wrote from inside the enemies’ camp--as dramatic as the latest spy-fiction best-seller. Salisbury uncovered government deceit and lying long before the Pentagon Papers were made public. He was right on the mark about the futility of the war and the damage it was causing in the United States as well as in Southeast Asia.
Also particularly noteworthy is Salisbury’s coverage, through the years, of China. The most knowledgeable journalist about China and the Chinese, he filed dozens of important stories about the People’s Republic, most of them far in advance of his newspaper colleagues and containing greater depth of insight.
This is a captivating narrative of our times, written with verve and compelling urgency. It provides a nonstop read.