Terry Fred Horowitz has written one of the most riveting and entertaining books of an unsung giant of American journalism, Robert St. John. For more than half a century, St. John traveled the world in search of breaking news long before the onset of 24-hour news cycles — in an era in which some of the most incisive reporting was done by lone wolf, on-the-ground freelance writers who, in search of an unfolding scoop, were frequently required to dip into their own pockets for international airfare.
But it was not always a hand-to-mouth existence. At the height of the London blitz in 1940, for example, St. John shared pride of place with Edward R. Murrow in reporting, in awesome detail, the air war over London between the Royal Air Force and Hitler’s Luftwaffe. Despite a close relationship with St. John, Horowitz never allowed himself to become a sycophant for his subject.
A very slight stumbling block to the book were the rare inaccuracies. The author wrongly attributes Hubert Humphrey’s decision to publicly break with President Johnson over U.S. conduct of the Vietnam War as sometime in August 1968. That event, in fact, took place on Sept. 30, 1968 in a widely covered Humphrey speech in Salt Lake City. But such blotches should not prevent you from reading “Merchant of Words.” Horowitz has done himself proud.