All of These People by Fergal Keane HarperCollins $285 Those who followed Fergal Keane's coverage of the handover may well be disappointed by the scant regard the BBC correspondent pays to his residence in Hong Kong. Keane arrived here in 1994 fresh from the horrors of the Rwanda slaughters. He was notably unimpressed by the city that was to be his home base for three years. Although posted as the BBC's Asia correspondent, he was a total novice. He knew little of the intricacies of regional politics or economics. It must have been difficult to follow in the footsteps of such goliaths of the airwaves as Anthony Lawrence, but the talented and amiable young Irishman hurled himself into the work. He says he was 'immediately struck by negatives' when he arrived. There were the stinking sewers, the 'mildewed disarray' of Kowloon, with its 'people squeezed together like prisoners in tiny cells'. Keane and his wife, Anne, moved to Jardines Lookout, an area regarded by most Hongkongers as a dream suburb. Not Keane. The building vibrated with noise from construction sites, his kitchen filled with odours of garlic and steamed rice because of the 'wheezing beast' of the air conditioning, and his Chinese neighbours played mahjong weekly, he complains. The author writes that he came to feel fond of Hong Kong. But he was homesick for Africa, where he'd covered the last days of apartheid and the murderous genocide of Rwanda. He longed to hear 'just once, on a bustling Asian street, the sound of African laughter'. This strikes the reader as bizarre. The key period of Keane's career to that date had been the soul-destroying butchery in Central Africa. Yet he feels depressed in Asian cities? It takes all types. This is a book of great interest not only to journalists curious about the development of a young master of the craft but to students of modern Ireland. It's also a moving family saga, told with love and yearning. Keane details his difficult relationship with his father, an alcoholic actor, and his own struggle with the bottle. It's painfully honest. It's also beautifully written, moving in its description of growing up in the dreary Ireland of the 1960s, when the Church and state still held the country in an iron grip of social conservatism. The reporter pulls few punches in his description of priestly brutality in church schools, of the bitter heritage of civil war that still haunts the land, and of the grim social orthodoxy. But then he gets a job, by accident almost, on a local newspaper. This brings back vivid memories: the boozy joviality and eccentricity of the newsrooms of Limerick and Dublin. Then the move to Irish radio and, finally, triumphantly, being hired by the BBC. The relentless fear of life in Belfast shines through these pages, the brutality of the continuing centuries of communal hatred a dismal background to his daily work. And finally, the turning point of his life and career: a posting to Africa. He feels immediately at home. His life, he observes, can be split in two. The first half was before Rwanda. The rest is haunted by what he saw in that ghastly, beautiful land. The bottle beckoned and Keane reached for it. His fight against alcoholism is given in gritty detail. It was a battle he won, after the realisation that if he continued drinking he'd be following the unhappy path set by his father. And after reporting on the cusp of extreme danger in Iraq, he came to a wise personal and professional decision. After 15 years of conflicts from Afghanistan to Sierra Leone, he told the BBC he wouldn't go back to active war zones. He'd had enough. He wanted to report not merely the wars but the in-depth issues facing the troubled globe. Sober and mature, Keane faces a new future. His book is far more philosophical and insightful than many 'I was there' memoirs by war correspondents. It gives a telling account of the complex and often difficult life of a journalist who, I suspect, still has the best of his career to come.