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Tales of a Tabloid Twitcher, by Stuart Winter

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  • Tales of a Tabloid Twitcher, by Stuart Winter

    Scandal - Celebrity - Intrigue

    Revealed: The Truth about Birdwatchers

    An exclusive by Stuart Winter, with a foreword by Chris Packham

    ISBN 978-1-84773-693-2 Price £7.99
    Published by New Holland




    It may come as a surprise to some people, but tabloid newspaper coverage of the ornithological world does actually extend beyond cheap innuendos about tits and shags. For this we can thank one journalist more than any other – Stuart Winter. A birder since childhood he has maintained a constant presence in the world of the tabloid news since the mid-1990s bringing innumerable stories about birds and birdwatchers to the masses in the process.

    This enthralling book begins with a foreword by Chris Packham and offers a window into the sometimes shady worlds of tabloid journalism and birding. In the process it explores the full stories behind the very best scoops. There are tales of obsession – travelling the length and breadth of the country in pursuit of rarities; tragedy – risking life and limb in the line of duty; celebrity – both human and avian, from Jeremy Clarkson and David Attenborough to ‘Sammy the Stilt’; crime – from felony to rivalries that turned nasty; and scandal – just what is the most debauched use of a bird hide.

    With a whole chapter dedicated to Lee Evans, a genius in the eyes of Stuart Winter, you may wonder whether this really is the book for you. But as Stuart notes ‘mention the name Lee and everybody who has ever travelled to see a rare bird will know what you mean without having to allude to a surname. This is normally something you can only do with Popes and Royalty.’

    From the indefatigable smell of the bird fair, to childhood around an equally smelly Dunstable Sewage Farm, Stuart takes us from his early birding experiences with the late Sir Peter Scott right through to modern times in and around Rutland. Whether narrating an interview with a Marmora’s Warbler, dips with the Right Hon Kenneth Clarke (and with a certain Siberian Rubythroat), you will enjoy the pleasure and pain of Stuart’s birding exploits.

    Read of Stuart’s end of a Scilly love affair – how Yellowthroat and Blackpoll Warbler scrums, a stolen telescope and drunken abuse convinced Stuart not to return, despite a World Cup passage. Or read of how Grahame Madge, the hard-working stalwart of the RSPB’s media office, found one particular broadsheet using a silhouetted image with Grahame‘s trademark bushy moustache to illustrate the nefarious happenings inside one Lincolnshire hide.

    With 16 chapters covering all the key birding events and personalities of the past two decades and beyond, Tales of a Tabloid Twitcher may just become the biggest ‘must read’ title for birders since Bill Oddie’s Little Black bird Book.

    And perhaps the most remarkable insight into Stuart’s personality and character is his steadfast refusal to see a Puffin! Stuart Winter may be no Simon Barnes but his easy writing style, evident sense of humour and love of the subject matter makes Tales of a Tabloid Twitcher compelling reading.

    If you’re heading off for a summer break (without birds) then pack a copy of Tales of a Tabloid Twitcher and you’ll be riveted to the pool-side from start to finish. Well, I have been.

    Well done Stuart!

    You can buy a copy at Amazon. Click here
    Last edited by Martin; July 29th, 2010, 07:24 AM.

  • #2
    Thanks for the heads up, Martin. BOLBB and " Birders " did it for me. Now I've just Got To read this one!

    Sent for!

    Comment


    • #3
      Well, having been loaned a copy by someone who bought it at the Birdfair, and having also read the two reviews on Amazon (linked to by Martin above), I am left wondering if it is the same book .

      Colin

      Comment


      • #4
        Yeppers. Having just this minute read the Amazon reviews, I'd tend to agree, Colin. I mean; The guy's no Mark Cocker, is he?!

        No. I s'pose what we got is what we should expect ~ from a tabloid hack; Tabloid level stuff. Sort of thing ye may read over and then put down and leave as ye walk away from the place ye were reading it.

        Not that I regret having spent a few quid to get it. It kept me distracted for a couple of evenings. But, I now feel no urge to pass it onto anyone else to 'Enjoy'. I'm not even certain where my copy is. On some shelf, I suppose. Somewhere.

        To me, MC's " Birders " will always evoke that stunning passage where he describes the moment ones eye looks into the 'scope and there's the bird. How it all comes together in that moment. Brilliant bit of writing!

        What do I bring away from This book? The authors unhealthily sycophantic view of Bill Oddy, to be honest with ye.

        Not the best taste in my mouth .....

        Comment


        • #5
          Pleased that someone shares my views on this Ditch. Just goes to show that many of these so-called "reviews" are publicity rubbish.

          I have only flicked through and read bits of the book - couldn't be ....d to go from cover to cover. The friend who lent me the book is off back to the U.K. tomorrow and says he doesn't want it back, despite not having read the whole thing!!

          Colin

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Colin Key View Post
            I have only flicked through and read bits of the book - couldn't be ....d to go from cover to cover.
            Thanks for the helpful review Colin. I'll definitely give it a miss then.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by tapaculo View Post
              Thanks for the helpful review Colin. I'll definitely give it a miss then.
              My comments are not a "review" tapaculo, just my first impressions after an hour or so with the book - I think it is total .....

              Colin

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              • #8
                Haven’t seen the book yet myself, but just to offer a degree of balance to the eloquent critique on this thread, here’s Bryan Bland’s review in Birding World (but what does he know about the birding scene?):
                “Stuart Winter is a journalist – a self-confessed ‘Fleet Street hack’. In 1994, he wrote his first ‘Strictly for the birds’ feature (Britain’s first newspaper column for twitchers) in the Daily Star, and he now writes the ‘Birdman’ columns in the Sunday Express. It is no surprise then that the title of this book is catchingly alliterative and that its cover even masquerades as a ‘red top’. The accompanying cover blurb is also typically tabloid: ‘Revealed: The truth about birdwatchers’. The truth? From a journalist? What a curious concept. Yet throughout 200 pages of narrative, covering many of the key birding events and personalities of the past two decades and beyond, Stuart gets all his facts right (apart from referring to the Scilly inter-island launches as gigs). What is more, in the 40 press articles he quotes, he does not put a foot wrong either. In fact, these must represent the most extraordinary sequence of accurate reporting in the history of journalism. Stuart is no hack. He is a perceptive writer. Thought-provoking, humorous (after self-deprecating), honest and accurate, he has provided a fascinating account of the recent twitching scene. The chapter headings alone invite further perusal: Lee Evans – my part in his legend; I was Bill Oddie’s Body Double; The Dips So Maniacs .... The events will be familiar to every reader of this journal and it is satisfying to relive them through Stuart’s words – as enjoyable on a second read-through as the first. We owe the author a great deal for the good sense he has brought to presenting innumerable stories about birds and birders to the masses in his press articles of the last 16 years. It is good to have many of them brought together here, linked by a fascinating and insightful narrative which rings bells on every page.”

                Comment


                • #9
                  I quite honestly do not give a toss about this book or its author, but I am somewhat incensed that the two reviewers on Amazon UK ( David Paul and Gooner George) give the book 5 stars and an over-exaggerated, euphoric "write-up". Note that neither reviewer has given any other previous reviews.

                  The whole thing stinks of "promotion".

                  Colin

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    To go a bit against the flow I actually enjoyed this book.

                    Hugh

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by grumps View Post
                      To go a bit against the flow I actually enjoyed this book.

                      Hugh
                      Do you read a lot of "Mills & Boon"?

                      Only joking Hugh, welcome to Surfbirds Forum.

                      Colin

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I too just finished reading ‘Tales of a Tabloid Twitcher’ and greatly enjoyed it for what it is. The title does kind of suggest what kind of read it's going to be be IMHO…light-hearted, humorous, and tongue-in-cheek. For me it succeeds on all counts. OK, it doesn’t redefine the birding world as we know it, but then the author doesn't suggest it will be an in-depth analysis of advances in taxonomy. I bought it because I thought it might be entertaining. It was, and those who have used rather aggressive language on this thread might perhaps have enjoyed it too if they'd bothered to read it.

                        Speaking as another independent author, (I notice incidentally that Stuart’s title is not published by any of the companies for whom he has worked in the past, no doubt he slogged his guts out to get a publishing deal just like I did), although I agree it’s always good to be open and transparent in all matters promotional, the truth is that the mainstream world is massively stacked against niche authors. None of us write bird titles for the money- shock news, there is NO profit for independent authors of the vast majority of bird books. I am massively in the hole having decided to chase pittas/finance a book about the adventure, and I am 100% confident that I have zero chance of ever approaching a break-even point. Which is fine, indie writers don’t expect any sympathy, that’s not why we do it.

                        I am all for people’s right to speak their mind, but it does seem to me that criticism ought to be based on at least having read the book in question and a few hard facts, rather than what feels like a kangaroo-court-based approach which condemns an author because of who he’s worked for.

                        Personally I’m rather glad that birds and birding have the odd spokesperson in the mainstream media- never resign from a committee with which you disagree and all that…If it wasn’t for the likes of Mr Winter and his ilk we’d have no Peregrines left (because the pigeon fraternity would have won the right to shoot them all), all the Albatrosses would be long-gone in the absence of publicity via Prince Charles and whatever other royals/celebs have successfully been dragged into the fray, and twitching and birding in general would still be universally derided by the British public, (as opposed to over of a million of them now giving their hard-earned to the RSPB every year.)

                        The final irony is perhaps that here we all are, ‘up in arms about the tabloids again.’ (I too have reservations about the tabloids’ behaviour at times, which is one reason I don't usually buy them.) It would be a terrible thing if it all ended up working in the writer’s favour by generating more ‘promotion’ on the forums.

                        Just a minute, “Colin Key”, hmm, that’s really just a cryptic Stuart Winter pseudonym right? Those sneaky media dogs…

                        Chris Gooddie
                        Last edited by pittasworld; September 16th, 2010, 04:40 PM.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by pittasworld View Post
                          …If it wasn’t for the likes of Mr Winter and his ilk we’d have no Peregrines left (because the pigeon fraternity would have won the right to shoot them all), all the Albatrosses would be long-gone in the absence of publicity via Prince Charles and whatever other royals/celebs have successfully been dragged into the fray, and twitching and birding in general would still be universally derided by the British public, ........


                          Just a minute, “Colin Key”, hmm, that’s really just a cryptic Stuart Winter pseudonym right? Those sneaky media dogs…

                          Chris Gooddie
                          Oh, come on Chris, that is a very naïve point of view.

                          I said earlier that I have no axe to grind with the book or its author, it is the fact that soon after its publication Amazon published two glowing 5-star reviews which did not reflect my opion of the book, the person who gave me the book, or anyone else I know who has read or just "dipped into" the book. Google "Tales of a Tabloid Twitcher reviews" and they are the only two which appear, which is rather odd. I am a very good customer of Amazon UK and the possibility that spoof reviews might be being published in order to promote sales I find rather annoying.

                          Personally, I think that the book is rubbish, but then some people (a lot, actually) like reading the Sun, Daily Star, Sport or, worst of all, the Daily Mail - all a matter of taste, of which 98% of the U.K. population has no appreciation.

                          If people in the "public eye" (whether they be journalists, politicians, Royal Family, etc) cannot accept criticism then it is perhaps time they found another job (I almost said "career" in error ).

                          Colin

                          P.S. I do not understand your final sentence?

                          P.P.S. Mr Winter did make a post in response to my comments but then saw fit to delete it - I have retained a copy.
                          Last edited by Colin Key; September 16th, 2010, 08:30 PM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Colin Key View Post
                            I quite honestly do not give a toss about this book or its author, but I am somewhat incensed that the two reviewers on Amazon UK ( David Paul and Gooner George) give the book 5 stars and an over-exaggerated, euphoric "write-up". Note that neither reviewer has given any other previous reviews.

                            The whole thing stinks of "promotion".

                            Colin
                            Not read the book either, but having corresponded with (and once having met) the author, I do 'give a toss' about him since he came over as a pleasant bloke with his heart firmly in the 'right place'! Whatever the case may be, I certainly think it's a little bit harsh to suggest that, just because a book you dislike gets a positive review, it has to be because it's being 'promoted'. It might be so, of course, but in the absence of any hard proof I think it's best to steer well clear of such assumptions,

                            John

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by pittasworld View Post
                              Speaking as another independent author,

                              Chris Gooddie
                              When's the Pitta book due Chris? Greatly enjoyed following the web odyssey...

                              F.
                              OBC John Peel Awesomeness
                              The little things they make me so happy, all I want to do is live by the sea...

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