Book Review: Speedway - The Greatest Moments
John Chaplin and John Somerville have collaborated once more on this new hardcover publication from Halsgrove Publishing. Somerville is the world's most avid collector of speedway photographs and items from his vast collection have been cherry picked to illustrate the prose that Chaplin has crafted. They are a formidable team and no other duo could have produced a book quite like this one.
This book is a follow-up to their "Speedway Superheroes" title that came out in 2012 and they've stuck with much the same formula this time around. The title is a bit of a misnomer, this book doesn't reflect on particular moments in speedway history at all. It's really a collection of speedway anecdotes, stories and historical tales.
Jack Parker, Graham Warren, Igor Plechanov, Jack Milne, Aub Lawson and Split Waterman are amongst the riders who are featured in some detail. Chaplin's writing breathes new life into the careers of these legends, releasing them to race once more around the world's speedway tracks (in the mind's eye at least). Chaplin also dedicates a chapter to one of the true greats - "Red Hot" Jimmy Rexton. What? You don't remember him? Grab a copy of this book and reacquaint yourself with this wannabe "King of the Cinders".
Chaplin has been writing about speedway for over sixty years and he takes this opportunity to pay tribute to a couple of his own journalistic heroes - Basil Storey and Tom Stenners. Chaplin must now be placed alongside those gents as one of the sport's greatest scribblers.
There are hundreds of interesting nuggets of information contained in this treasure trove of speedway history. The wonderfully varied selection of pictures, mined from Somerville's archive, are of equal value to Chaplin's prose. Indeed just flicking through the book and looking at the pictures is pleasurable in itself.
There's a definite bias towards the sport's glory days, making it of particular interest to those who like to wallow in a bit of nostalgia. It meanders through the decades as well as up and down the UK (and beyond). This loose structure makes it ideal to pick up, set down and read in whatever order you like. With its high quality hardback cover it's perfect coffee table material.
Format: Hardback, 160 pages, 297x210mm, with over 200 black and white photographs
ISBN: 978 0 85704 201 9
This article was first published on 1st December 2014
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