Columnist, Dallas Morning News
"I couldn’t put Stu Bykofsky’s journalism thriller Press Card down. It perfectly captures the world of a big-city tabloid newspaper in the late 20th century, complete with rebellious reporters, back-stabbing editors, and weasel politicians.
Byko recalls a pre-computer era when smoking, drinking, and cursing were as much a part of the newsroom culture as typewriters. His long-awaited novel reads like a movie and offers up great moments of suspense, humor, love, intrigue, and passion – and let’s not forget the sex."
Philadelphia Inquirer reporter (retired)
"There are passages in this book that perfectly capture what it was like to work for a newspaper when print journalism mattered.
This is a favorite: 'Getting the big, fast-breaking disaster story is what journalists live for. It challenges and excites them. It transforms the newsroom into a military command post — or Pearl Harbor. It is terror. It is anxiety. It is strain. It is desperation, split-second decisions and no regrets.
It is fun.'
Great kicker, Stu."
Beth Leary Hegedus
Freelance newspaper reporter
"For anyone who loved and appreciated the wit, wisdom, and sardonic spice served weekly in the Philadelphia Daily News by Stu Bykofsky, take the time to read a novel (obviously a roman à clef) about what life was like when newspapers were king; when the newsroom had an aroma of intoxicating newsprint; when the AP newswire would be chugging out 100 stories a day....and bells would go off for breaking and/or international news; when copy was sent via pneumatic tubes to the composing room....and of course, when two unknowns named Woodward and Bernstein broke the story of the century!
Imagine life when everything was read on paper; no iPhones; Androids, or Internet...and people talked about what was in the news! Bykofsky captures it all."
Philadelphia Police Department Inspector (retired)
“Bought it, Kindle edition, and read it in two days. Couldn't put it down. Just because it is fiction doesn't mean there isn't some truth in it. Those ‘tidbits’ are very credible, and had me trying to connect them to real life history I had during my contact with reporters during my police career.
I noticed that at least some chapters could stand alone as short stories. The only other time I saw that technique used was by John Kennedy Toole, author of ‘A Confederacy of Dunces.’
I loved the book, but it ended too soon, too abruptly. I could have easily kept reading for another two days.”
News Director, KUSI TV/San Diego
"All fiction is biography. That bromide holds whether it is Hemingway, Mailer, Joe Heller, or Bykofsky, who has a sensibility like all of them.
His protagonist, Shelby, is part Jimmy Breslin, more Nat Hentoff, but all cursing, coarse newspaperman of their day. They have a code, that bends towards truth, and suffers bosses, cons, politicians, and anyone who crosses them badly.
I've walked through enough newsrooms on Xmas to know the truth of this line, ‘It was a cemetery of desks instead of tombstones, repellent as a drunk's breath.’
And handled enough anchormen to know something about egos and erratic behavior. He has an anchorman named Pearson end it all on camera, written with as much clout as Howard Beale unravelling in Network. The scene a reminder as well of the actual on-camera suicide of R. Budd Dwyer in 1987, avoiding bribery conviction as State Treasurer of Pennsylvania, pulling his .357 out to end his life and press conference.
The end of great newspapers, the shift in editorial honesty, and the loss of respect by owners for the reporter, and the reality on the street, run through this book, with grit, cynicism, and some humor. All great reporters have a novel in them, but few write it. Most take it to their graves.
Gladly, Bykofsky took his notes from a life lived in newsrooms, and got it onto a page.
It's biography, some newspaper history, and just a grand read."
Political reporter, WEWS-TV (ABC), Cleveland
"If you ever wondered what life in journalism was like in the days when newspapers reigned supreme and towns offered multiple AM and PM options, THIS IS IT!
Set in the mid ‘70s Press Card offers you a ‘factional’ look into a period of time in journalism gone forever, but the lessons offered to young journalists in its pages -- ones once taught to me by Stu at Temple U -- still ring true.
Carl Bernstein once told me (yes I’m name dropping) that Journalism is ‘the best obtainable version of the truth.’ In Press Card you get a glimpse of that and the struggle to seek that middle ground. All with the creative storytelling and brilliant writing we ‘Philuffians’ have come to expect from Stu over the years. Well done!”
Retired broadcasting executive, King of Prussia, PA
“The book is a good read. I know because it drew me in and kept me in, which a good book -- a good read -- does. Most of all I found the protagonist to be real: good and bad, honest and dishonest, strong and weak, and losing a lot. Just like we all are and just like in real life.
What I found most comforting (an odd word, yes) was Shelby's travails with management were so (here's that word again) REAL. To me at least as I worked for some professional, major league, class A morons and assholes in my business life.”
“I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It flowed and was hard to put down. That's how I always measured a book's worth.
If I have to read it in one sitting, it's good. I will reread Press Card later this year. I like to absorb what I read.”
Retired columnist, Pittsburgh Press, and Phoenix Gazette
“I like the book! It was a fun read and brought back old memories, although our experiences were different in that I never worked under a union.
Much as I enjoyed your fun, interesting, and easily readable book, I couldn’t help comparing your story to my experiences (and feeling grateful that I got ‘retired’ when I did, thus missing a lot of the decline.)”
“Your book has brought back so many memories. So accurate in the physical stuff and especially the personalities.”
Publisher, ACT, Philadelphia, PA
Wanda Mohr, PhD
Professor of Psychiatric Nursing, Rutgers University (retired)
“Reminiscent of Paddy Chayefsky’s 1976 film, Network, Stu Bykofsky’s Press Card, is concerned with the decline of media. But while Network was a kind of primal scream, Press Card is more of a sardonic lament about an industry in which Bykofsky spent his career and which he loved. It’s a bit tricky to describe the book. It resembles a memoir and is told in chapters that are a series of vignettes. It is informative and describes the world of journalism with an immediacy that one might expect from a veteran journalist. But it is the human element of this book that resonated with me most. The protagonist, Claude Shelby, is compellingly developed with both subtlety and depth, and Bykofsky describes Shelby’s juggling of both practical and psychological issues in his professional and personal life with a vividness that only one who has experienced this personal journey himself could have written.
It’s always more interesting to read a book in the voice of someone who experienced its subject matter, and Bykofsky describes Shelby’s tussles with his editors in humorous and convincing detail and yet without overt bitterness. His interactions with those bosses are sometimes laugh out loud funny and much of the thematic import of print media’s decline is conveyed almost entirely through this dialogue.
Good stories have several plot lines running through their narrative, and this book is no exception. Bykofsky weaves Shelby’s professional and personal lives skillfully and creates a cast of characters that it would be fun to meet and befriend.
This was fun and informative reading, and although it may not have been exactly his intent, I learned a great deal about the author himself.”
“Great book! I read it In 3 sittings; great writing, great stories. Would make a great movie, maybe 2 or three movies.”
Anchor, WPVI and KYW-TV, Philadelphia, PA (retired)
Main Line (PA) Media News
“Shelby, as his friends and enemies call him, has relationships, sort of, with two women -- one who works at the Freep, and the other who owns an art gallery. He uses friends unsparingly whenever he needs information for an article. He does not seem to worry if by using their information and even their names he might be ruining their lives.
But Shelby is one smart cookie, and even when he plans revenge on his enemies, he gets you to admire his wits and resourcefulness.
He does have feelings, especially when it comes to his long-time best friend Sam Novak, who covers the war in Vietnam. You will recognize the description of many characters and incidents in Press Card, even though the names have been changed to protect the innocent. Or in some cases to protect the guilty…
You will find yourself rooting for Shelby to get back his beloved political column and for him getting even with the bosses who do not appreciate his brilliance and his talent. Bykofsky has drawn on lots of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania historical events, reimagining a couple of them and fictionalizing them in so doing.”
“Press Card, through reporter Claude Shelby, offers an authentic and raw view of journalism in Philadelphia in the 1970’s. Politics, sex, corruption, memorable characters-it’s all there.”
Past president of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Fraternal Order of Police
Philadelphia, PA and Clearwater, FL
“Last week while crossing the country I took time to read Philadelphia journalist Stu Bykofsky’s Press Card.
If you seek to enter into a newsroom and feel the strengths and weaknesses and romantic escapades of reporters and journalists in action, I highly recommend this book. Though the book is based on fictitious characters, my memory and friendship with crime reporters and columnists from the Daily News and Inquirer in the ‘60s and ‘70s came back to me in many of the gripping insightful descriptions of their city's coverage. Bykofsky describes in detail the motivation and belief in the depth of a researched story being submitted, only to face rejection on occasion by vengeful editors.
I can remember when street reporters stopped at the FOP bar relating the intricacies of the politics of a big-city newsroom operation. These were the last years when coverage of the police profession was covered with understanding and responsible writing.
If you enjoy great storytelling about characters who were given snippets of information and turned them into complete factual readable stories of a big cities crisis and explosive events, then I highly recommend Press Card.”
“Press Card has the most explosive opening paragraph in American literature.”
“I enjoyed 'Press Card' brought back memories of my early years in the biz at The Columbus Dispatch. The stories we have are so surreal that ordinary citizens would never believe them.
When the Arizona Republic recruited me, I flew into Phoenix one night after working a full day at the Dispatch. I got to the hotel and immediately crashed as it was 1 a.m. Columbus time. About 11:30 p.m. the phone rang, waking me up. It was the features editor calling to say that he along with the managing editor and the assistant managing editor were on their way over and to meet them in the bar. We sat there drinking until the bartender threw us out. The next day, the features editor gave me a guided tour of the city, including where hookers hung out. Think times have changed?"
TV columnist, Arizona
Mark Schwartz, esq.
"Your book was a terrific read. I got a real sense for the inner workings of a newspaper and the fact that the protagonist really cared. The character development was great. I would recommend this to anyone who wanted an insight into what newspapers once were."