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The tribe of the night

The acclaimed American playwright David Mamet has written a novel whose hero is a newspaper reporter in Chicago in the 1920s. Simply called Chicago, it is his first novel in 20 years.

One passage brought to mind some fellow Reuter journalists whom I often admired and was overawed by. They came across as hard-bitten sceptics, but romantic, and determined to find and report the truth with a passion.

I think most of us could put names to a few with instincts as described by Mamet.

“The constant practice of doubt as to the material, and disbelief of all human testimony, created, in reporters, as in the judges, the cops, the nurses, and others of the tribe of the night, various instincts. Having seen lies almost exclusively, the rare instance of the truth was, to them, easily identifiable.

“Their lives were founded on doubt, but they were not given to denial; their one unassailable devotion was to the truth independent of its acceptability, or in fact, utility. It was to them the One Good. Put on the scent of truth, they proceeded fairly oblivious to blandishment, intimidation, or distraction.” ■