Memoir / Bob Jones requires no introduction, but he does need an explanation, and that’s what his memoir Reporter provides. What drives this no-small-ego cranky former news anchor, reporter and now columnist? Who does he think he is? And what makes him think his life is worth a memoir, anyway?
You’d never know from the first 28 pages, which are full of what we in the old print biz used to call all-day-thumb-suckers–the no-thought-required riffs you stick in the Sunday edition so you can go off and have a life. But as it turns out, once you get to Chapter 4, “How to Get Hired and Fired,” he’s like a poor man’s Hunter Thompson, a gonzo Candide without the LSD and blow, which is probably why he’s still alive and making news by harassing unlicensed Diamond Head Crater vendors in Midweek.
Jones stumbled into journalism in St. Petersburg and Tampa at a time when Florida was still an outlier. For an admittedly not-too-self-aware teenager, Jones showed a knack for getting ahead despite working a police beat that resembled Blue Velvet. When not drinking with the cops (they’d shoot holes in the roof of his company car for kicks), he’d bail out hookers and install them in his apartment so the local boys in blue could have a party pad. Think of it as preparation for old Honolulu.
Like Thompson, Jones went from armed forces reporting to absurdist stints on a variety of expatriate papers that barely paid. Germany, Spain, Paris–the adventures are enough to make a blogger weep into her keyboard, for those days are long gone. Then came Honolulu and several tours of Vietnam as the Advertiser’s stringer and later national TV correspondent. Jones devotes the core of the book to the war, and his matter-of-factness suits him well. He’s rightfully proud of his work, and his portrait of his life there and his evaluation of the military leaders is as convincing as Michael Herr’s Dispatches.
Jones of Honolulu is tamer character, though he does admit to “having sex with a neighbor’s wife” and taking a pot shot at a Peeping Tom whose face appears, arcade-style, in the bedroom window. His great local triumph is to turn KGMB into the hottest station in town by dressing up in costume and acting like a gateway drug to Rap Replinger.
It’s no surprise that Jones is hard on local politicians, journalists and leaders. He’s also hard on himself. He’s no prose stylist but bluntness is a style, too. So go ahead, dive into the Life of Bob–after page 28, the water’s fine.
Banyan Tree House Productions, 2012
Paperback, 242 pages, $14.95