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Ann Leslie, the doyenne of women reporters, has been a star writer for the Daily Mail for over three decades and regularly appears as a witty and forthright contributor to numerous television and radio programmes (including 'Question Time' and 'Any Questions'). She was created a Dame of the British Empire in the 2007 New Year's Honours List.
She has reported from over seventy countries, sauntering confidently through wars and civil disorders (clad in full makeup and false eyelashes), and bringing back reports which have won her numerous awards. When the Media Society in 1997 gave her their Lifetime Achievement Award the citation noted that she was only the third person to receive the honour: ‘the two previous winners were Sir Alistair Cooke and Sir David Attenborough’. It praised her ‘special ability to give readers personality, style and substance in every article she writes.’
Leslie’s life is every bit as remarkable as her career. Born in north-west India, the strongest influence on her early life was her beloved Yah Mohammed, an illiterate Pashtun bearer, who saved her life during Partition. Her mother sent her to a distant hill-station boarding school at the age of four. After graduating from Oxford she began her career in Manchester in the Sixties on the Daily Express , where she was regarded with suspicion and even hostility for being both educated and female. A year later she moved to Fleet Street and was given a column headlined: ‘She’s young, she’s provocative, and she’s only 22.' She later specialised in show business: notable encounters followed involving stars like Steve McQueen, Georges Balanchine, David Niven, Tom Jones, John Cassavetes, James Mason, Marc Bolan and Salvador Dali. Despite knowing nothing about sport she developed a strong rapport with Pele and Mohammed Ali (especially after she hit him on the jaw to gain his attention).
In the recent Reuters/Press Gazette launch of the Newspaper Hall of Fame she was listed as one of the forty most influential journalists in the last forty years. In David Randall’s book, The Great Reporters (celebrating the 13 greatest British and American journalists of all time), the author profiled Ann Leslie as ‘The most versatile reporter ever..
Ann Leslie has been one of our top journalists for over three decades and has come across a myriad of people in her time. This is the sort of memoir you really want to read as she has a multitude of tales to tell about plenty of fascinating people, as well as telling her own story of building a successful career in Fleet Street at a time when a young, educated, female was not considered the ‘right sort’ for cutting edge journalism. A brilliant read.
She has been shot at by Bosnian snipers, been pursued by Robert Mugabe's notorious secret police, filed from the North Korean border, propositioned by both Salvador Dali and David Niven and been driven maniacally through London by Steve McQueen. But Ann Leslie's life is every bit as remarkable as her career. A daughter of the Raj, she was born in India and the strongest influence on her early life was an illiterate Pashtun bearer, who saved her life during Partition. Her mother, a great beauty, was indifferent to her eldest daughter and she was sent to the first of a series of boarding-schools aged just four, eventually winning a scholarship to Oxford. After graduating she began her career at the Manchester office of the Daily Express, where the news editor took an instant dislike to her - she was a southerner, educated and - worst of all - female. Despite his best efforts she was soon given her own column. Then, after a stint covering show business she was appointed Foreign Correspondent of the Daily Mail, an association that endures today, almost forty years later, and one which finally allowed her real talent to shine through. Killing My Own Snakes is a witty, incident-filled account of an extraordinary life, a fascinating self-portrait of one the most influential journalists of our time.