Robber Baron: Lord Black of Crossharbour

My first interesting book was Robber Baron: Lord Black of Crossharbour (ECW Press, publishing date – last week of October 2007), the French translation of which came out as Le baron Black (Les Editions de l’Homme, publishing date – first week of November 2007; serialized in Le Journal de Montréal and Le Journal de Québec). This work was not published under the Evidentia Originals imprint.

You can obtain a copy at the website below:

Le baron Black was launched the same week as Robber Baron. The French edition (trade paperback) sold just under 10,000 copies.

Review notices of Robber Baron/Le baron Black:

* According to Cal McCrystal in The Independent on Sunday (London), “This biography of Conrad Black is about power and confinement. It addresses his pursuit of and entrapment by the former, and his raging frustration concerning the latter: ‘a concentration camp’ (his upper-class school), the stifling homespun of his native Toronto, the ‘constraints’ of the Canada he until recently despised, and – in the biographer’s words – the ‘world that was too small for him.’ … The intimately detailed portrait has frequent references to Machiavelli…. This enthralling material is placed in clever juxtaposition with taped interviews with the baron himself, insightful accounts of Black’s myriad business schemes, including his artful acquisition of the Daily Telegraph, and verbatim extracts from his trial in Chicago for fraud and obstruction of justice.”

* In Editor & Publisher, Mark Fitzgerald wrote “In the highly readable Robber Baron (ECW Press), Tombs plumbs Black’s psychology objectively, but with a sharp insight. It’s something of a cliché to compare Black to Citizen Kane, and Black himself encourages the comparison. But what Tombs has done, arguably, is located the ‘Rosebud’ in Black’s life – a 1953 Atlantic cruise to England to witness the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. His wealthy father arranged to be on a ship as the British Navy sailed by as part of the celebrations.”

* According to Scene Magazine, “At no point does the biographer demonstrate anything but impartiality toward his subject, a fact which serves Tombs well during his coverage of Black’s highly-publicized fraud trail in Chicago. ”

* In the words of Peter C. Newman in Toronto Life, “Robber Baron is superb with much new, if sometimes quirky material.”

* H. J. Kirchhoff wrote in the Globe and Mail that “this updated edition of a book Tombs originally published in 2004 includes accounts of the many things that have befallen the disgraced press baron since, especially his Chicago trial and sentencing, which the author attended. Much new material based on interviews and documents.”

* According to Montreal’s La Presse, “Le baron Black [my translation into French of the same work] reads like a novel. George Tombs clearly masters his subject and has succeeded in following the tortured path of Conrad Black without getting bogged down in technical details. He tells the fascinating story of a man blinded by the quest for power who has ended up sabotaging himself… The strength of this biography lies in the fact that the author is a historian as well as a journalist.”

* According to Le Soleil (Quebec City), “George Tombs has devoted a fascinating book to Conrad Black. The publisher calls this an unauthorized biography. Actually, this 464-page book, Le baron Black, puts things into perspective and helps to understand why the Americans have brought Black of Crossharbour to justice…. Not only is this book successful, but it enables readers to fully grasp the odd sides of Black’s personality – a personality dominated by arrogance and greed, but also marked by keen intelligence.”

* Phillip Adams, host of Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Late Night Live, said during a live interview on ABC Radio National, “George, you are a very naughty writer.”

The back-story: An initial version of this biography, Lord Black, was published in Canada and the United States under the BT imprint in September 2004 and serialized in the National Post, the Calgary Herald, the Ottawa Citizen, the Montreal Gazette and other CanWest newspapers. Unfortunately, the manuscript of Lord Black was incomplete when the book was rushed into print.

Following the bankruptcy of one of the publishers of Lord Black, I got my rights back in 2006 with the help of UNEQ (the Quebec Writers’ Union). I then negotiated new publishing agreements with ECW Press (in English) and Les Éditions de l’Homme (in French) to bring out Robber Baron and Le baron Black, a completely revised and updated book, incorporating in-depth coverage of fallen press baron Conrad Black’s criminal trial in Chicago and his mid-July 2007 conviction.

Published in the last week of October 2007, Robber Baron is 65% different from Lord Black and a far better work. It is based on my twenty-year experience of journalism, rigorous archival and other research, interviews with Conrad Black, members of his family, long-time friends, colleagues, competitors, newspaper publishers and editors, union leaders, five billionaires operating business empires, leading investment managers on Wall Street, a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, neocon and liberal columnists in five countries, investigative journalists, historians, arch-enemies, criminal defence lawyers, former prime ministers of Canada and Australia, leading politicians in the United Kingdom and the United States, a half-dozen fellow members of the House of Lords, and 200 others. I also attended much of Mr. Black’s criminal trial in Chicago.

It was quite a feat to bring out Robber Baron and Le baron Black in two languages simultaneously. I wrote the English-language work and churned out the French translation at the same time. We launched the two language editions together at the offices of Les Éditions de l’Homme in Montreal, on November 6, 2007 – just three months and three weeks after Mr. Black was convicted in Chicago of fraud and obstruction of justice!