Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow was recommended to me by my sister – she especially liked the audio book with Farrow’s dreamy-voice narration.
Author: Ronan Farrow
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
I knew very little about Ronan Farrow except that he is the son of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen.
His book, Catch and Kill is an inspired piece of work – the product of brave and dedicated investigative journalism into the serial abuse Harvey Weinstein.
It is not exactly the best writing, in my view, but the story itself blew me away.
Perhaps I had been living in a bubble … sure, I’d heard the Harvey Weinstein story, of what he had done and the jail sentence he was handed, but I had no idea how difficult it was for his accusers to get justice.
It is staggering that Weinstein got away with his crimes for so long.
That is, until you discover that he had friends in high places and, according to Farrow’s account, used all these connections (and a lot of money) to silence everyone – from the women he abused, to the journalists who tried to tell the story, to lawyers, to politician, the list goes on.
“Catch and kill” is an old term used by tabloids (in this case AMI, the parent company of the National Enquirer) to describe the practice of purchasing a story in order to bury it.
Thus, for a very long time, stories about Weinstein were buried along with, according to the book, stories about Jeffrey Epstein and Donald Trump.
Along with countless lawyers, Farrow reports that Weinstein also hired Black Cube, a private intelligence agency, to gather dirt on anyone accusing him of wrong-doing.
Farrow came across the story of Weinstein whilst working for NBC in New York.
He found women who were willing to be interviewed and so began a long quest to uncover the truth of Weinstein’s predatory behavior and abuse of power.
NBC were keen at first but then squashed the story – they didn’t think it had enough legs to run with – and then promptly exited Farrow from the organization.
Farrow accuses the NBC executives involved of being too close to Weinstein. (He says one woman in question, Brooke Nevils, was in fact raped by Lauer, an allegation Lauer denies).
He writes that “the warmth drains out of the room” when Farrow mentions Weinstein’s name to Tom Brokaw, the veteran NBC news anchor – it turns out the two men are friends (in 2018, Brokaw, too, was accused of making unwanted advances towards women, allegations he denied).
Eventually Farrow took his story to the New Yorker where it was initially published under the title of “She Said” by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, the New York Times journalists with whom Farrow worked.
Farrow’s book is just as tenacious as Kantor and Twohey’s, but builds a greater sense of drama, perhaps a reflection of the empathy he feels toward the women he interviewed – his sister Dylan accused their father Woody Allen of having abused her as a child.
He does a great job in capturing the fear and anxiety felt by Weinstein’s victims.
In my view, the story is an engaging one, and a very important one, particularly as it is now credited with having sparked the international #MeToo movement.
While it suffers a bit of a loss of momentum in the middle parts of the book, as the journalist in Farrow lays out an indigestibly long list of names of lawyers, fact checkers, and spies (yes, spies) that were involved, it is for the most part a gripping read.
Farrow is something of an enigma, a wunderkind – entering Yale Law School at the tender age of 16, joining the State Department at 21 and becoming an MSNBC host shortly thereafter.
He says however that his life almost fell apart as a result of tackling this story – he lost his job, his original publisher dropped him and he had to move out of his home because he was being followed and threatened.
He even says that he didn’t know, even if he did publish the book, whether anyone would care.
But care they did, and when his story broke in the New Yorker in October 2017, not only did he (along with Kantor and Twohey) win a Pulitzer Prize, but he also unleashed a movement that has transformed our society and perhaps the world.
The Reluctant Book Critic