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Whilst in between adventures, Mr Wolf took a job with an architecture magazine. You might in fact say he was a cub reporter.

It was a start-up title, bankrolled by a media company which wanted to move into the glossy, controlled circulation titles which are aimed at “professionals” … little realising that there’s less money to be had in design of any sort than in the legal, advertising or medical professions.

Mr Wolf had already established a minor reputation for himself as a commentator. He was occasionally phoned up by Radio Scotland when they wanted an opinion on a tower block going up, or a well-known landmark burning down. As he put it on his years-out-of-date personal website, he was a “go to” voice for radio debates. Really? Can you even say that about yourself without blushing?

Ultimately he fancied an Arts slot on TV, sifting culture on the leather-upholstered settee with Kirsty Wark – but he had to make do with sixty seconds chatting to Janice Forsyth on Radio Scotland’s graveyard slot, or an occasional quote in the papers. After all, he wasn’t Scotland’s Most Famous Living Architect.

Nonetheless, a minor reputation got his loafer-clad foot in the metaphorical door, and he snagged a commission to write the manuscript for what became FOUL AIR, a fast-paced thriller which explores the invention of the air admittance valve. It was heady stuff, an intellectual battle of wits between the Andersson family’s Durgo company which created their first AAV in 1970, and Sture Ericson who designed the Bjare Valve in 1973. (True story, kids). The book was one of Scottish Architectural Publishing’s better sellers that year.

Popular opinion has it that journalists never fully commit to an opinion, so most articles offer both sides of the debate in order to let the readers decide (and to avoid alienating half of the readership). Regardless, Mr Wolf was happy to offer strong opinions and divisive comment, on demand, wherever he could find an outlet.

Despite that profligacy, it was difficult.  Not long ago there were several magazines which published long-form journalism: intelligent pieces which took time to research and write and edit. But not today’s popular press.  The tabloids offer a steady diet of affirmation, focussing on simple topics which require little research or background. They hype and they hector, but rarely force you to think.

Sometimes the architectural press isn’t much better. One former favourite weekly used to be 100 pages long and printed on decent stock; they employed subs to fact-check and make squiggly marks all over the proofs. Now it’s all soft proofed on PDF, and we know from bitter experience that screaming typo’s never show up on screen.

Nonetheless, the magazine format is still important. Edwin Heathcote, architectural critic of the Financial Times thought that, "Architects are like novelists. They regard the most important thing in their careers as being published. Buildings are all very well but the are somehow only truly complete when they have appeared in a glossy mag.” (Is It All About Image?: How PR Works in Architecture).

So Mr Wolf made contacts. That was easy. Early on, someone explained that architects are complete tarts for journalists or anyone involved with the media, because they think they have useful contacts that they can exploit on their own behalf. The other side thinks exactly the same, so you have everything required for a mutual exploitation society.

Once he got into his stride Mr Wolf was, by a long way, the most unscrupulous writer I ever came across. He wrote headlines first then retro-fitted the story. He made things up. He lifted snippets from back issues of other magazines, hoping that nobody would notice, since architects are only interested in seeing photos of their completed buildings and don’t bother reading the words which interrupt the images. Or so they say…

He even invented an inventor, who used to pop up now and then with some new, radical building material when there was a gap to fill in the News pages. It was Fake News before that term was popularised by Donald Trump, but had more sinister roots. As Joseph Goebbels once said: "If you tell a lie often enough, eventually people will start to believe it."

So Mr Wolf told stories, and when he lied, he made sure the lie was good and repeated often. For example, when he reviewed a monograph about a dour Edwardian architect with a walrus moustache, he puffed that it was “Uplifting, tender, brilliant, insightful and compelling.” It was the sort of dull book that he traded in at a secondhand bookshop on Great Western Road, five minutes after he’d finished skimming it.

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”.  He came across that phrase first in a book about the architectural illustrator Gordon Cullen, and he added it to his notebook of cribs for future use. Years later he discovered that Cullen had stolen it from Thoreau and when Mr Wolf was caught out, he recited, “Talent borrows, genius steals” – ironically without giving any credit to Oscar Wilde.

That’s what Mr Wolf’s life is like. A morality tale for all the family.

Just in case you’re still trying to keep up, some previous instalments in Mr Wolf’s story are here:

Merry Christmas Mr Wolf

Setting the Wolf amongst the pigeons

The irresistible rise of Mr Wolf

Immortality Projects

Mr Wolf rides the rails

This is the Ice Age

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