Reading Speed

STALKER!

Posted in Biography by readingspeed on February 24, 2009

Chris Walker with Neil Bramwell

HarperSport, ISBN 978-0-00-725986-1

When Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote his searing indictment of Soviet totalitarianism, The Gulag Archipelago, he didn’t feel the need to further embellish the title of his Nobel prize winning epic with a terminal exclamation mark and call it The Gulag Archipelago! Quite why Walker thought it necessary to do so with his biography is not readily apparent.

The book gets off to an unpromising start with a detailed description of his wedding. Why? As an attempt to illuminate the man rather than the racer it utterly fails by concentrating on prosaic and declasse details of no possible interest to the reader – Jamie Witham was ‘pissed’ by 3:00pm – fascinating. Of course, it could be that the initial focus on the wedding was intended to start the book on a high note and Walker has had relatively few of those on the track so we are left with the Bildungsroman of Walker dancing to Don’t Stop Me Now at his wedding reception.

Walker is one of the multitude of British riders who have oscillated between the British Superbike Series, some of the less well funded World Superbike teams and the very lowest strata of Grand Prix racing. This is a very familiar story that has been retold by different riders on numerous occasions. Initially, Walker brings very little fresh insight to this well worn narrative. We have the customary juvenile delinquency, educational underachievement and progress through the ranks of club racing. As is usual this is garnished with tales of financial and contractual treachery and the eternal theme of all motorcycle racers – sub-standard machinery compared to those of his competitors.

However, as the book develops we do come see Walker as an entertaining narrator with a pithy turn of phrase. Food in the Czech Republic is handsomely summarised thusly: Every meal is like Sunday dinner but shit. Another emergent theme which adds tremendously to the entertainment value is that Walker is a rider who makes habitually very bad career decisions. Turning down a lucrative Erion AMA FX/SS ride in order to bet his future on the Moto Cinelli BSB fiasco is a notable but by no means isolated example.

All of Walker’s many setbacks and injuries are borne with good humour and fortitude until the BSB season of 2000. After three consecutive 2nd place finishes in the series Walker was three laps away from finally winning the championship when engine failure cruelly robbed him of the title. The open and honest description of his emotions and actions in hours immediately following the race are some of the best writing in the book and it’s these passages that elevate Stalker! above the flock of BSB biographies.

The book finishes at the end of Walker’s indifferent 2007 BSB season with Rizla Suzuki and provides no satisfying or logical conclusion to the narrative. An updated version with details of Walker’s turbulent 2008 season in WSS and WSBK would be welcome.

RS Rating: 8/10

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