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He began at a local radio station and cut his teeth on live TV battling the winds of Hurricane Carla that swept through the state in 1961.

This performance plus ferocious ambition and determination led to a correspondent’s job at CBS News in Manhattan, N.Y. After years of high-profile interviews and investigations, often from far-flung and dangerous locations, he finally landed the prestigious anchor slot in 1981. He stayed for 24 years.

The main theme of this book is nostalgia tinged with bitterness - a yearning for the good old days when big-name journalists employed old-fashioned shoe leather to ferret out scoops, a time when there was no intrusive Internet or mob of savage bloggers.

Some of his recollections are especially intriguing, including:

His “Gunga Dan” phase when, swathed in local garb, he sneaked into Afghanistan early during the Soviet invasion and reported on the fury and resolve of the Mujahedeen.

His coverage of the civil rights movement, when his video was sabotaged, his life threatened and outrage, epithets and boycotts from affiliates and viewers became part of everyday life.

His frontline reporting from Vietnam where, slogging through the jungle with the grunts, he laid out a “how to” in his essential guide to covering combat. His tips:

1. Dress the part. There is no faster way to lose credibility with a combat unit than to appear in loafers.

2. Make sure you are self-sufficient. Don’t be a burden.

2a. Make sure you are obviously self-sufficient.

3. Find the captains and the sergeants. “When you really want to know what is going on, straight/no chaser, your best bet is to talk to the captain of the forward-most combat unit and his most experienced sergeant.”

Still a workaholic and insatiably curious, the stubborn octogenarian now heads a news show 42 weeks a year on HDNet, a cable channel available to more 30 million households. It is a fraction of his former audience, but for Mr. Rather the program was, and is, a lifesaver.

More revelations:

In crisis mode after being canned by CBS, he became an outcast, floundering about, searching for a new identity, depending on the proverbial “kindness of strangers.” One of them was George Clooney, whom he had profiled for “Sixty Minutes II.” It was Mr. Clooney who invited him to an award ceremony and introduced him to entrepreneur Mark Cuban, who became his new boss and offered him the best advice he ever received. During the gala, Mr. Clooney turned to Mr. Rather and murmured sotto voce, “So you got screwed. Happens all the time in my business. Forget it!”

If only he could or would.

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