A journalist has complained to the PCC after claiming that his biography of the actor Dirk Bogarde was reduced to a “repellent hatchet job” when it was serialised in The Daily Mail.
Former Daily Telegraph literary editor John Coldstream sold The Mail the serialisation rights to his book and it ran “extracts” from it over four days in August.
Coldstream claims he was so angered by The Mail’s treatment of his work that he tried to pull it before publication.
The matter is now in the hands of the PCC, which could take action under Clause One of the Editors’ Code of Practice (accuracy).
This states: “The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information”.
Coldstream launched a public attack on The Daily Mail, writing in this week’s edition of book-trade magazine, The Bookseller.
He said that he received the text of the first Daily Mail extract of his book two days before it was due to appear and read it “with mounting incredulity and horror”.
He added: “This was no extract. It was a grotesque re-write. I skimmed the remainder, and realised that instead of a serialisation in the accepted sense, I was confronted by a tawdry travesty from someone unknown to me who had trekked through my 600 pages with a salacitydetector, and strung together a ‘life story’ based almost entirely on material from the book that showed Dirk in an unfavourable light.”
John Coldstream claims he tried unsuccessfully to get the extract amended or withdrawn and then “watched in agony as four years of commitment to a thorough, fair and, yes, if you like, ‘warts and all’ portrait was reduced to a repellent hatchet-job under the running headline Dirk the Deceiver”.
Coldstream declined to expand on his comments in The Bookseller, but he is understood to have been moved to complain to the PCC following a letter which appeared in The Daily Mail on 23 August commenting on the pub- lished extracts of his book.
It said: “The fashion for skinning people after they have died and picking the remains like vultures is despicable.
John Coldstream will never be half the writer that Dirk Bogarde was.”
A spokesman for The Daily Mail said the newspaper had given a full response to the PCC and declined to comment further on the matter pending the outcome of the watchdog’s investigation.