WHEN Michael Yates started his journalistic career, racing to meet a deadline often meant ‘phoning a story over to the newsroom, notebook propped up in a telephone box before the pips started going.

Newspaper offices were filled with the sound of a symphony of clacking typewriters, and news editors barking orders through clouds of cigarette smoke.

Michael started as a reporter and later film critic on the Sheffield Star. He went on to be a news sub editor with the Telegraph & Argus from 1999 to 2003.

In his new collection of short stories, 20 Stories High, Michael includes two tales set on a fictional local newspaper, both featuring a senior reporter called Jack Parker.

We are introduced to Jack - who has an "expanding stomach and thinning hair, a broken marriage and a drink problem" - in Jack Parker and the Graduate. Jack is from an era when reporters started out as "boys just out of school who knew their way around". He spends boozy lunchbreaks in the pub, chewing the fat with locals, picking up a story or two along the way. He has little time for the "pompous" graduates snapping at his heels or the changing face of news coverage under the current editor. "Now it was figures, tables, graphs, rates, taxes, wage claims, councillors' expenses, comparison, analysis. And so-called 'investigations'! Three quarters of a page on why it took three years to build the Manx Corner flyover, why the town hall renovation went £2 million over budget. If Hailey could calculate how many times council officials went to the bog against the amount of paper they used, he'd have somebody in graphics doing diagrams of their a***s."

In creating the atmosphere a 1980s newsroom, Michael's attention to detail is striking. To journalists like me, working in the digital age, passages such as the description of Jack rolling his copy paper, with carbon folded inside, into a typewriter are fascinating. "It took him three attempts and a stubbed-out Marlboro to get his first folio in straight. Then he tried to adjust the margins to his own comfortable length, but the righthand margin kept springing back" - all that before he even wrote the first words of an article!

In Jack Parker's Day in Court the tension rises, as it becomes apparent that he has made a grave error in reporting an indecent assault case, which doesn't come to light until he's on his first drink in the pub.

Jack isn't particularly likeable. He drinks too much, he has little respect for his colleagues and thinks nothing of swiping a typewriter from another reporter's desk, but he's an intriguing character, and there's a vulnerability beneath the swagger. It seems Jack is washed up, but I reckon there's a whole novel in him.

The book cover shows a block of flats, and at first glance I thought each story may link to a storey of the tower block. But, as Michael says: "If I had to explain what links the stories together, I would say: 'Surprise!' Life never gives you the outcome you thought you were heading for. You might also call them 'Tales of the Unsuspected'.

The rich variety of stories offer compelling accounts of the human condition. There's the born-again Christian who takes a lesson from Chairman Mao, the have-a-go hero who becomes an internet villain, the dead author dictating his novel to a friend, and the murderer's father who counts his blessings. Michael is a gifted writer with a wry take on life.

His other work includes a play, All Good Men, presented in a double bill at Saltaire’s Victoria Hall in 2010. Michael was Writer in Residence when Bradford became the world's first UNESCO City of Film in 2010 and he taught scriptwriting to students at St Joseph’s Catholic College and St Bede’s Catholic School. His play The Bronte Boy was launched at Bradford Playhouse in 2011 and went on a West Yorkshire tour.

* Yorkshire poet and novelist Mark Connors will be guest reader at the launch of 20 Stories High at Henry Boons pub, Westgate, Wakefield, on Thursday, February 22 from 7pm to 9pm.

* Visit michael-yates.com