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The Last Magazine

Review

The Last Magazine

In 2013, bestselling author Michael Hastings passed away at the age of 33 in a fiery auto accident at the height of his journalistic career. He was a foreign correspondent for Newsweek magazine in Iraq and Afghanistan, and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. He also was a contributing editor to Rolling Stone and BuzzFeed. The manuscript for THE LAST MAGAZINE was discovered by his widow, Elise Jordan, on his computer after his death and appears to have been written around 2007-2008. Although thinly disguised by other names, all three of these publications and their principal editors are satirically featured here.

Hastings’s first-person narrator is Michael M. Hastings, an intern at The Magazine, who is the omniscient eye observing his fellow writers. The novel’s uncanny relevance to current breaking events in the Middle East might not be so stunning had it not hit the market on the very day that the US found itself being pulled back into that failed quagmire as our hard-fought campaign to train and update Iraq’s regime crumbles day by day.

"Whether you are a news junkie, political junkie, war junkie, or just enjoy a good read, this posthumous debut novel is an entertaining read."

The novel’s protagonist, A.E. Peoria, is a wet-behind-the-ears foreign correspondent for The Magazine who is sent suddenly to Baghdad to cover the Shock and Awe invasion. A by-the-book journalist, he starts out taking copious notes, documenting and fact-checking events and interviews. The “home by Christmas” 2002 invasion has drawn America and a smattering of reluctant allies into war, erroneously led to believe that Iraq possessed nuclear weapons of mass destruction and that Saddam Hussein must fall. Within hours, as the massive armaments roll toward Baghdad under the never-before public eye through live-action television and on-the-ground journalists, the Humvee carrying Peoria’s group is ambushed. A wrong turn by the driver finds Peoria pinned down with the unit’s sole survivor when their vehicle is shelled, and the rules are off. Peoria saves the Marine’s life and becomes a heroic icon.

At first, you might think that Peoria is the author’s coming-of-age altar ego. Through plot-managing “Interludes,” Hastings stops the narrative to make insightful observations of The Magazine’s principal byline columnists and top management, readily identifiable by journalist insiders. That is when you realize that Peoria may be an actual reporter who is a bit red-faced to see his sexual and drug-induced R&R in Bangkok in print. Whether that chapter is based on fact, fiction or pure fantasy, you might observe caveat emptor upon embarking on Peoria’s hallucinogenic voyage into Thailand’s seamy underbelly.

References to receding readership of the once-major weekly news magazine giants, known in the emerging Internet trades as “dead tree” publications, are ironic. Newsweek, which launched the author’s career, has since shrunk in print form and expanded (reluctantly, as the virtual Hastings would describe it) to online subscribership to keep up with the times. The real Michael Hastings went on to work for Rolling Stone and BuzzFeed, and, like his virtual character, Michael M. Hastings, is a successful novelist.

Whether you are a news junkie, political junkie, war junkie, or just enjoy a good read, this posthumous debut novel is an entertaining read. Since it was a bit rough around the edges, Hastings put THE LAST MAGAZINE aside to publish THE OPERATORS in 2012, a bestselling nonfiction view of the Iraqi and Afghanistan wars. Hastings’s former colleagues mourn the passing of a young writer on the rise, whose wicked humor and richly informed journalistic, in-your-face style held promise for much more to come.

Reviewed by Roz Shea on June 27, 2014

The Last Magazine
by Michael Hastings

  • Publication Date: June 17, 2014
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Blue Rider Press
  • ISBN-10: 0399169946
  • ISBN-13: 9780399169946