By Hamish Mackay

Can I mention the latest book, his fifth, from the pen of Scottish journalist and broadcaster, James Naughtie – a very trusted old friend and former colleague of mine.

Considering the current momentous events across the pond – an erratic, self-obsessed President, a pending presidential election, and now approaching 170,000 deaths from the rampant spread of COVID-19 – Naughtie’s On The Road, which has a sub-title American Adventures from Nixon to Trump (Simon & Schuster, £20), couldn’t be better timed.

I first spotted James’s talents as a dynamic young graduate trainee journalist on the Press and Journal (P&J) back in the 1970s, and closely followed his career as he rose to be one of the BBC’s leading broadcasters via The Scotsman and The Guardian – and most recently as a presenter on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. After standing down from the Today team after 21 years, he is now a special correspondent attached to BBC News and given a roving role, and lives in Edinburgh and London.

A Banffshire lad, with a huge repertoire of bawdy bothy ballads, Naughtie has had a tempestuous love affair with the USA for 50 years – ever since he first visited as a student. The dust jacket describes the 300 pages of On The Road rather well: ‘A tale of high drama and hilarious encounters – from Washington corridors to diners in dusty small towns, from the streets of New York down to country roads in the old South – infused with the insight of a master observer, whose voice is a beguiling guide to the mysteries of modern America… the journey of a roving reporter, full of laughter, adventure and surprise’.

I haven’t yet read On The Road, but it drew a five-star review in the Scottish Mail on Sunday with Michael Simkins writing: ‘This is the rarest of reads, a book that makes you ache to hop on a plane and sample this extraordinary country for yourself. It is thought-provoking, constantly surprising and hugely entertaining. Sublime stuff’.

James is 69 on 9 August. Happy birthday, old boy!

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