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Christopher Dickey, Longtime Foreign Correspondent, Dies at 68

2020-07-17 13:37:45

Christopher Dickey, a foreign correspondent and editor whose authoritative dispatches on war, terrorism and espionage spanned continents and decades, died on Thursday in Paris. He was 68.

His death was reported by The Daily Beast, where he worked as the foreign editor. The cause was not immediately known, but his death was unexpected.

Colleagues and competitors recalled him as a giant of the international press, whose mastery of sourcing and extensive travels made him among the most knowledgeable scribes on world affairs. He was said to be an enthusiastic mentor to young journalists, fine-tuning their copy and regaling them with stories of his past.

Brian Williams, in an on-air tribute on MSNBC, said Mr. Dickey, who regularly appeared on the network, was “one of those great and curious storytellers who seemed to know just about everything and everyone.”

Credit…The New York Times

His range as a writer and reporter was evident in the seven books he published. His first, “With the Contras: A Reporter in the Wilds of Nicaragua” in 1986, recalled his days covering conflict there. He wrote nonfiction books about foreigners in Arabia in 1990, counterintelligence efforts by the New York Police Department in 2009, an Englishman’s role in the Confederacy during the Civil War in 2015, and novels in 1997 and 2004.

In “Summer of Deliverance,” published in 1998, Mr. Dickey, born in 1951, offered a brutally honest memoir of growing up as the son of James Dickey, a one-time poet laureate who wrote the best-selling novel “Deliverance.” Describing his struggles to cope with his father’s alcoholism and abusiveness, he explained that he became a foreign correspondent partly to get far away from home. His mother, Maxine Dickey, died in 1976, when she was 50.

“Dickey has done a remarkable job of picking his way through a minefield of emotions, knitting together a dangerous present and a painful past,” The New York Times wrote in a book review.

A graduate of the University of Virginia, Mr. Dickey began his international reporting career in 1980 with The Washington Post covering Central America, later moving to the Middle East. He covered Egypt and France for Newsweek, and he worked in Paris for The Daily Beast until his death.

He reported from at least 42 countries, including El Salvador, where the celebrated writer Joan Didion would become his mentor. John Avlon, a former editor of The Daily Beast, said on Thursday that he had once asked if Mr. Dickey had read Ms. Didion’s book “Salvador,” to which Mr. Dickey responded without pretense: “Yes. It’s dedicated to me.”

Asked for advice for potential foreign correspondents, Mr. Dickey told the Overseas Press Club of America: “Learn languages, but, more importantly, learn cultures. The two are inseparable.”

Mr. Dickey, who wrote for The New York Times’s books section as recently as March, is survived by his wife, Carol; a son, James; his sister, Bronwen Dickey; a brother, Kevin Dickey; and three grandchildren.


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