The Fourth Estate (novel)
First edition (UK)
|LC Class||PR6051.R285 F68 1996|
The Fourth Estate is a 1996 novel by Jeffrey Archer. It chronicles the lives of two media barons, Richard Armstrong and Keith Townsend, from their starkly contrasting childhoods to their ultimate battle to build the world's biggest media empire. The book is based on two real life media barons – Robert Maxwell and Rupert Murdoch, who fought to control the newspaper market in Britain. (Murdoch had bought The Sun and News of the World and later Times Newspapers Ltd and Maxwell bought the Daily Mirror and the other newspapers in its group.).
The concept of the fourth estate is in essence the press as a watchdog on other powerful institutions or "estates", the original three estates in England and later the United Kingdom being the Lords Spiritual (of the Church of England), the Lords Temporal, and the commons. The fourth estate is charged with keeping an honest watch on activities of the other states and itself. These duties would help democratic societies function properly, openly, and honestly. Debate still flourishes as to whether or not this ever operated (or operates) as it was intended.
It also shows a battle between two strong characters from differing backgrounds, who are willing to take endless risks.
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Lubji Hoch breaks the bonds of his humble beginnings as the son of an illiterate Jewish peasant, escapes the Nazis, changes his name to Richard Armstrong, becomes a decorated officer in the British army, and ultimately finds himself in Berlin, where his sharp mind and killer instincts win him the opportunity to head up a floundering newspaper. As rival papers in the city fail in the wake of his ruthlessness, he nonetheless yearns to move on to even greater things.
On the other side of the world, in Australia, Keith Townsend, son of a millionaire newspaper owner, is being groomed to follow in his father's footsteps. Private schools, an Oxford degree, and a position at a London newspaper lead him up to the time of his father's death, when he takes over the family business. His energy and brilliant strategic thinking quickly make him the leading newspaper publisher in Australia. Yet he too longs to move on to the world stage.
As both Armstrong and Townsend seize control of everything they see, their ambitions collide on a global scale. But suddenly they both find themselves threatened by finicial disaster and enormous debt. Frantic to save his crumbling empire, each man turns desperate. One's quest will lead to triumph, the other's will end in tragedy in this awesome tale of wealth and corruption, desire and destruction.
The Fourth Estate is the timely and compelling story of two men who, though they come from totally different backgrounds, stand face-to-face on the highest precipice, prepared to risk everything to beat each other and control the biggest media empire in the world.
Sarah Lyall, in The New York Times, thought the work contained "leaden dialogue", but despite the "tantalizing echoes" of Armstrong and Townsend's real life models, the two men "seem about as vivid as bureaucrats in a wire-service story". Hugo Barnacle found evidence of a "dry sense of humour", but asserted that "Archer doesn't do insight or atmosphere, and gives the imagination very few cues."
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