Tomalin was the son of Miles Tomalin, a Communist poet and veteran of the Spanish Civil War. He studied English literature at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. As a student he was President of the Cambridge Union and editor of the prestigious undergraduate Granta magazine. He graduated in 1954 and began work as a foreign correspondent for various London newspapers. He married fellow Cambridge graduate Claire Tomalin in 1955 and they had three daughters and two sons. In spite of numerous affairs on his part (and hers), they remained together until his death.
He later co-wrote a book with Ron Hall about amateur sailor Donald Crowhurst's failed attempt to circumnavigate the world and subsequent suicide. His article The General Goes Zapping Charlie Cong was included in Tom Wolfe's collection The New Journalism, which was a collection of non-fiction pieces emblematic of a new movement of reporting aimed at revolutionising the field.
Tomalin's articles often began with bombastic statements on their subject matter. The most famous of these is: "The only qualities essential for real success in journalism are ratlike cunning, a plausible manner and a little literary ability".
- http://www.freebmd.org.uk search on Tomalin marriages post 1953
- http://www.freebmd.org.uk search on Tomalin/Delavenay births post 1955
- Tomalin, Claire "Several Strangers" p.8
- Tomalin, Nicholas "Stop the press I want to get on" Sunday Times Magazine 26 October 1969
- Tomalin info at The Journalist's Memorial
- Press Gazette names top forty journalists of the modern era
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