The tale begins in 2002 when national magazines like still-then relevant Newsweek, the very thinly disguised weekly of the book, dominated the New York and Washington media world.
Hastings explores the rampant editorial back-stabbing, pomposity, jealously, unlimited expense accounts of bigwigs, alcohol, sexual conquests, sexism, phoniness, "blowhardism" and general high-living that thrived at places like Newsweek and rival Time magazine, which is referred to as Brand X.
Time Inc., which is currently in rapid downsizing mode and heading downtown while Newsweek struggles on life support, was even more excessive, according to my former editor, Cynthia Billings, one of the first female editors at Time-Life. She used to disparage the place as "Paradise Publishing."
The Magazine enjoyed a 2.2M subscriber roster in 2002 and shelled out for first-class airfares for flights of more than eight hours.
It held catered dinners on Fridays, the late-night for each issue, at its NYC swanky headquarters, where one could gaze from one of its floor-to-ceiling windows to view Al Pacino's Central Park West pad. The office also faced the construction site of Time-Warner's base at Columbus Circle. [T-W plans to bail out of Columbus Circle for cheaper space.)
The Magazine also hosted lavish book parties for its editors there for their tomes that only a handful will read. Those events for "important" books on political and economic affairs attracted the usual suspects of Kissinger, Brokaw and Stephanopoulos as guests.
The book focuses on the derring-do of A.E. Peoria, The Magazine's star foreign correspondent, who reports from hot spots in Chad and Iraq, while his snobby editors revel in the life of New York's media society.
Hastings' own ego and his book's descriptions of month-long debaucheries among the prostitutes in Thailand and homosexual encounters in the headquarters of The Magazine divert the attention of readers.
The author, who died in a mysterious car crash in California last year, was a real-world Peoria who covered the first Iraq war for Newsweek.
His damning 2010 feature "The Runaway General" in Rolling Stone ended the career of NATO commander General Stanley McChrystal. Hastings also was an ardent opponent of our surveillance state, which has triggered conspiracy theories about his untimely demise at age 33.
Nevertheless, The Last Magazine is a must-read for PR people and may well serve future historians researching the explosion of Big Media.
Blue Rider Press, a unit of Penguin Group USA, published The Last Magazine this year.