Reading Speed

JAMES WITHAM: WHAT A GOOD DO

Posted in Biography by readingspeed on September 3, 2009

James Witham with Mac McDiarmid

J H Haynes & Co Ltd ISBN 1-84-4254925

The initial indicators from “What a Good Do” are not hopeful. First, we have the promise, or perhaps threat, of a foreword by Carl Fogarty. Amazingly, restraint is exercised and it is not until the second paragraph of the foreword that Carl tells us just how incredible he is. Second, we have a rather coy formulation telling us the book was written “with” Mac McDiarmid. I’m sure that MMcD is fine journalist and a robust man of letters however he must have a special template set up in MS Word for all these biographies of second rate British motorcycle racers he is ghost writing.

So it was with no small amount of trepidation that I cracked open the covers of this book. My overwhelming concern was that it would fall prey to the cliché of many autobiographical works in which the subject has had a brush with a life threatening illness. It was my great fear that chapter one would be a hospital scene with a recounting of Witham’s struggle with Hodgkin’s Disease. But, no, the temptation of reversion to that hackneyed saw is resisted and the events of Witham’s Künstlerroman are presented in strictly chronological order.

The result is an entertaining, insightful and unsententious examination of Witham’s eventful, if not consistently successful career and is enhanced by a colourful cast of supporting characters such as Witham’s father. While, at times, the book can read like a primer for trainee orthopedic surgeons, it is a fine addition to the canon of motorcycle racer biographies.

RS Rating: 9/10

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