Shooting Straight: Guns, Gays, God and George Clooney by Pier Morgan (Ebury 14.99)
Over the last few years, Piers Morgan has become almost as big a hate figure in the US as he always was in England. The reason the Yanks have turned on him now is not because of his smarmy manner, "punchable" face (as the Guardian had it recently), or endless boasting about winning Celebrity Apprentice, but because he has, through the soapbox of his CNN chat show, waged a campaign for gun law reform in the US.
So heated are emotions around this subject that his stance has resulted in shouting matches on his show, death threats and a petition signed by 100,000 people to have him deported back to England (the White House declined to do so).
This campaign dominates a sizable portion of Shooting Straight: Guns, Gays, God and George Clooney – Morgan's fourth and possibly least entertaining memoir. In one way, it's his reaction to the triviality (in his mind) of his gig as an America's Got Talent judge – he's keen to show people he is still a real journalist, however tedious and didactic that may be when it takes up half his book. But it's also Morgan trying to recapture the successes of his Fleet Street past. During his tenure as a national editor in Britain 'campaigning journalism' became as much a staple of the English red tops as phone-hacking. It – the campaigning – energised Morgan's career at the helm of national newspapers and, eventually, ended it.
Morgan touches on both of these subjects in his new book. While denying any involvement in phone hacking – Lord Justice Leveson called his testimony on the subject "utterly unpersuasive" – he goes against the vehement advice of CNN's PR department and expresses his support for former News International CEO Rebekah Brooks, who is currently on trial at the Old Bailey on charges related to phone-hacking.
He also deals with the 'faked' photos of British soldiers abusing and assaulting Iraqi prisoners, which lead to his being fired as editor of the Daily Mirror and "frogmarched" out of the building. "I've never seen conclusive evidence they were faked," he tells us. Which all these years later still seems a long way from saying he knows they were real.
There are two things missing from this book, both of which would have made it more entertaining. Firstly, there is the same lack of detail about his personal life that characterised his other memoirs. There may be some Irish interest in learning that he was born Piers O'Meara and that his birth father – who died when he was an infant – hailed from Co Offaly. But there is frustratingly scant information on his divorce or his subsequent marriage.
The second thing it's missing is the very ingredient that made Morgan's first memoir, The Insider, one of the best books ever written about journalism: good celebrity dish. He drops names left and right – Barbra Streisand sends him an email of support, he gets drunk with George Clooney, Jim Carrey offers to urinate on him in a movie – but either he's too enamoured of his new friends or feels he still needs them too much to run roughshod over them in the same way he did with the stars of his print press years.
Morgan lives most of his life these days in a TV studio and his team go all out to ensure that the most fascinating aspects of his celebrity interviews end up on camera. They haven't been all that entertaining in many cases and this book is merely the offcuts – in atrocious prose (too many examples to mention but "I can almost taste their blood lust" is the type of thing he frequently comes out with). Given the autobiographies by Alex Ferguson and Morrissey, those waiting for a riveting celebrity memoir can do better than this.