Conrad Black & Margaret MacMillan: Black apologizes for tone of review of Nixon book by MacMillan

Historians in the News

Conrad M. Black, the former chairman of Hollinger International, has been relatively quiet lately as he awaits his trial this spring on fraud and racketeering charges in Chicago. But a literary spat and apology to the author of a book he reviewed critically put him back in the gossip pages last week.

Mr. Black was chosen to review “Nixon in China: The Week That Changed the World,” by Margaret MacMillan, a historian at the University of Toronto in part because he is himself writing a biography of the former president; he has also published biographies of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Maurice Duplessis, a former premier of Quebec. (Ms. MacMillan’s book is being published in the United States under the title “Nixon and Mao: The Week That Changed the World,” and as “Seize the Hour: When Nixon Met Mao” in Britain).

In the review, which appeared in the Literary Review of Canada, Mr. Black wrote, “she would have to write something unrelievedly terrible before I could bring myself to write anything negative about it.” But after some praise, he suggested the book contained factual errors, insufficient research and is poorly structured. “I had some reservations about the book and tried to present a fair review,” he said in a telephone interview.

Then Mr. Black had second thoughts. He wrote a letter of apology that is scheduled to appear in the March issue of the Literary Review, saying in part, “the tenor of part of my review was one of inadvertent condescension. That is entirely inappropriate and was unintentional, but I apologize for the slightly patronizing tone of several sentences.”...
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