Telling the story
Friday 2 December 2016
Mike Arkus, for all he says about skiving on the beach [My swim with Fidel], was already being cited as an example during his time in Cuba. As a very raw trainee in London in 1967, I was handed one of his stories to read by a desk editor as a model of "copperplate copy".
On the other hand, Jim Pringle, in his estimable piece on Comandante Fidel, plays down - in his customary fashion - the great scoop he got on finding Eldridge Cleaver. His wee story about finding the "armed and dangerous" Black Panther leader, top of the FBI's “most wanted” list after an armed attack on a police station, by "knocking on doors" in an unhealthy Havana barrio made the front page of The New York Times with a Pringle byline and Reuter credit - a very rare accolade by the miserly (when it came to crediting agencies) NYT, especially at a time when Rooters was barely known in USA.
Departing Cuba for his own health and safety, the intrepid James decided to go somewhere the Black Panthers were least likely to find him - and headed off to Saigon, where the Vietnam war was still raging.
This was partly due to Jim's (at this point still fruitless) search for true love. (Spoiler alert: This story may have acquired apocryphal elements over the years.) This may have been a case of frying pan to fire, after an armed South Vietnamese army officer arrived at the Reuters office to disabuse Mr Pringle of any designs he might have on his sister. ■