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Glamorised: Rosamund Pike plays Marie Colvin in the new film "A Private War"

Most journalists at some point dream of two things: writing a brilliant book and covering war, Martha Gellhorn style. Many do the former, but very few achieve the latter. It’s meaningful work — bearing witness and exposing the horrors of conflict.

For her generation, Marie Colvin exemplified the trade as she covered combat from one end of the globe to the other, famously wearing La Perla underwear and designer clothing under her body armour. As a result of a grenade attack in Sri Lanka, Colvin wore an eyepatch after losing the sight in one eye, something that further distinguished her. She wrote brilliant copy and proved her bravery — but the Sunday Times correspondent’s own story came to a harrowing end when she was reporting on the siege of Homs in Syria. She was killed by the Assad regime, according to her family. She was never going to die in her bed.

Her death brings up a host of questions that dog editors and other journalists. How far do you go to get a story, what price should you pay for a scoop, and is it ever worth dying for a page lead?

The question is relevant because six  years after Colvin’s death her fellow war correspondent Lindsey Hilsum has written Colvin’s biography, In Extremis (Chatto & Windus, £20). The title is how Colvin explained what she did: “It has always seemed to me that what I write about is humanity in extremis, pushed to the unendurable, and that it is important to tell people what really happens in wars.”

War photographer Paul Conroy’s 2014 book about his final mission with Colvin, Under the Wire (Quercus, £9.99), has been adapted into a gritty documentary directed by Chris Martin, and the Oscar-nominated star Rosamund Pike plays Colvin in the Hollywood film, A Private War, which was released last month.

We glamorise and lionise the ultra-elite who cover war, in much the same way that the femme fatale assassin is glamorised in the BBC series Killing Eve. Colvin’s mystique captures our imagination for obvious reasons, illustrated by Conroy’s description of coming across the larger-than-life reporter in a war zone, popping out of a pile of rubble smoking a cigarette. No wonder Conroy said that they had “the time of our lives” working together.

I’m not sure I’ve ever had a more fantastic adventure than the days and nights I stayed in Siloppi, a small town in south-east Turkey, waiting to cross into northern Iraq on the eve of the war in 2003. The two male journalists I spent the most time with acted as if the whole thing was a lark.
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