If It Bleeds by Duncan Campbell Headline Review HK$234 Laurie Lane is an old-school hack, in the newspaper business long enough to remember the days when typesetting involved molten lead and gentlemen editors were moral guardians. Now in his mid-50s, he is a crime reporter with a British daily. But these are changing times and his smarmy news editor Stark is unhappy both with Lane's traditional approach to his job and the fact that he resists demands to join the 'integrated, multimedia, internet' world. 'It's just that, with things changing so fast ... you know, cyber fraud, computer crime, identity theft, intellectual property stuff, corporate shenanigans, cross-border trafficking - the old bang-bang coverage of crime is maybe getting a bit dated,' Stark tells Lane. He says it might be time to let newer blood have a go and suggests Lane become the motoring correspondent. 'You are kidding. I don't even have a bloody car,' is Lane's reply. If Lane is the old-school reporter, Charlie Hook is his equivalent in the 'bang-bang' world of crime. One of the most notorious criminals of his day, he is dubbed 'last of the godfathers' by newspapers. Not known for courting the press, Old Man Hook takes Lane by surprise when he calls to say he has 'a little proposition' for him. Hooking up with the old gangster in a London park, Lane learns that Hook fears another newspaper is planning a one-sided biographical series on him and wants to beat them to it by writing his own autobiography. He wants Lane to ghostwrite it. The reporter agrees to do the job. But it's not Lane's week. With his job on the line, he wakes up the next morning to find his wife has left him for another man and that his new commission has finished before it has even started - Old Man Hook has been shot dead in his Highgate home. At least it is a good old-fashioned 'bang-bang' whodunit right on his doorstep. Lane is determined to stay on the story to show that old-school crime reporting still sells newspapers. If It Bleeds, the second novel from The Guardian journalist Duncan Campbell, is a page-turner. With tight, punchy prose, humour and believable characters, the plot guarantees a rewarding read. But if the story is compelling, Campbell's take on the changes in the publishing world makes interesting reading too. He is keenly aware of the pressures on newspapers to compete in the digitised world, where their survival is at stake. As bean counters with business degrees take over the helm from old-school specialist media moguls, there is increasing pressure on newspapers to sacrifice traditional standards for news bites and other gimmicks and shed experience in favour of 'cost-effective' young blood. However, they will always need the Laurie Lanes if they are to survive with integrity.