Readers who had encountered its first volume would have known that Stephen Koss's work on the British political press was monumental. Now it has become his monument in another, brutally unexpected sense, for Stephen Koss died suddenly soon after the completion of the second volume. The outrage felt by everyone who had known or read him had something to do with his youth, but more to do with the cutting-off of his gifts. These included an almost superhuman capacity for tracking, retrieving, devouring and assimilating information in less time and from more sources than was previously thought possible. Koss was the archive-cruncher of his age. But he had another gift, which was to make the imparting of densely-packed information stylish, readable, often mockingly witty. Because of this, Koss is always present in his own work, an energetic, high-spirited, sceptical presence who gives off pulses of his own enjoyment. The old cliché about authors living on in their books is freshened up here: Koss bounces about this second volume like a cowboy, suddenly coming into view to crack a whip or wave a hat or whoop whenever the slow-moving herd of facts threatens to come to a halt.
LRB 21 February 1985 | PDF Download