My book review of 'Strange Places, Questionable People' by John Simpson

by John Simpson

This is an old book, published in 1999, and one I've had on my bookshelf for some time. I took it down recently as I hope soon to be writing about John Simpson's role as the new patron of Southwold Arts Centre. It seems a rather incongruous posting but apparently he grew up in Dunwich, just down the coast, and has fond memories of the area.

John Simpson is a respected and trusted reporter with a lifetime of experience documenting conflict and major historic events throughout the world, and it seemed fitting and somehow reassuring to be familiar with his story in the light of this week's events in the Middle East. 

He has had an extraordinary career and he writes with ease, honesty and immediacy. It's fascinating to learn something of the conversations and events behind the scenes in British politics, albeit some time ago now. And he helps to make sense of some of the world events over the past few decades. In 1989 he witnessed the Tiananmen Square massacre, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Communism throughout Eastern Europe and in South Africa, the release of Nelson Mandela.

It feels as though John Simpson has always been there, bringing the news calmly, clearly and with authority. As a journalist, his professionalism has been something I've always admired. It's a brilliant book about a phenomenal life and I'm sure I'm going to be turning to it again. 

Date of this review: October 2023
Book publication date: 31st October 1999