Longtime Del Mar resident Peter Kaye is an engaging storyteller. As a political journalist, he spent a lifetime dealing in narratives — his own and others’. So, not surprisingly, his new book, Contrarian, Peter Kaye’s Life Journey From The Depression To Checkers, Dallas, Watergate And The Great Wall, offers a nimble and fast-paced journey through significant events of the past.
Kaye provided on-camera interviews during the Watergate hearings as part of the Robert MacNeil/Jim Lehrer coverage for public television. He gained firsthand knowledge by direct, on-the-scene reporting, and his memoir makes good use of personal experience, moving deftly from such recollections as his assigned Washington White House duties to his editorial position at The San Diego Union-Tribune, time spent as local and national TV producer/commentator, staff member on several high-profile political campaigns, and commentator/participant in 16 national political conventions.
Along the way, Kaye has been involved in myriad additional projects, most of them of lasting historical value. Seemingly constantly on the move as a journalist, he traveled the world in search of stories, which he wrote in his no-nonsense style. The voice of the book Contrarian might be best described as amiable crustiness with a whiff of dry wit. Actually, sometimes he’s downright funny.
Referring to the historic coverage of the Senate Watergate Committee hearings, he writes, “After thirty-seven days of televised testimony, we turned off our lights and cameras. The caucus room and corridors grew dark. The characters left the stage and their images faded from the screen. Before my small role faded forever, I achieved everyone’s requisite fifteen minutes of fame and was recognized on the street, in supermarkets and restaurants. At Washington’s Union Station, a few weeks after the hearings ended, I was stewing in an interminable Amtrak line trying to buy a ticket to New York. An elderly man in front of me turned and asked, ‘Say, weren’t you the fellow I used to see broadcasting the Watergate hearings?’ I allowed as how I was. ‘Well,’ said his wife, ‘you sure can’t throw your weight around here like you could there, can you?’”
He’s done a lot and seen even more. Kaye tells the reader what iconic figures of the 20th century were like up close, and his related backstories of San Diego politics are gems that will be referenced by future cultural historians.
This isn’t a scholarly book, but rather an “I was there” piece. Kaye was reared during the Great Depression and that strong dose of reality seems to have equipped him with a get-it-done attitude toward any and all endeavors.
Readers will pick up the book, read it quickly, and, for those hungry to learn of the real issues of the day, just as quickly read it again. (www.booksurge.com
) DARLENE G. DAVIES