Michael Lee's Life Laid Bare
New book that will shock
MICHAEL Lee is the big name subject of the next book to come off the Retro Speedway shelf.
The former World Champion's authorised biography, Back From The Brink, written by Retro Speedway's Tony McDonald, will be launched before the British Grand Prix at Cardiff on July 10.
Lee, the 1980 world title holder and former Boston, King's Lynn, Poole and England No.1, will be signing copies of the 336-page softback at the collectors' fair before returning to the Millennium Stadium pits and his current role as Tai Woffinden's engine tuner.
McDonald says: "It was great fun working with Michael on his Mike the Bike DVD, which has been a huge success since it came out late last year, but there are some many more different issues to explore with this book. We originally advertised it as 240 pages, but we've added another 96 to that and also included a 16-page full colour section. It's unbeatable value.
"Michael has crammed so much into his life - not all of it good! - but that means he has an even more compelling story to tell.
"One of Mike's endearing qualities is that he's such a down to earth bloke and not a prima donna who is up himself. He knows he has made stupid mistakes in the past and he's not afraid to face up to them in a refreshingly frank manner. That honesty shines through strongly in this book as he recalls his highs and, at times, very low lows both on and off the track. It's real warts 'n' all, a forensic examination!
"Everyone seems to have an opinion on Michael," continues McDonald, "so it made more sense to produce the book as a biography rather than an autobiography solely in his words. Indeed, it's a job to get Michael to talk about himself for long, whereas the subjects of autobiographies only seem to want to talk about the good things they did and brush the negative stuff under the carpet.
"Naturally, he has plenty to say and many of his revelations will shock, and maybe horrify, some people, including those who thought they knew him well!
"But the biographical approach means I've been free to talk to Mike's family - including his father Andy, who had such a strong influence on his speedway career, his mother Val and his son, Jordan. I've set out to discover the real Michael Lee and I'm sure readers will be intrigued by what they find inside the pages of Back From The Brink.
"I've also talked to the people who have known him well through speedway - the promoters and team managers he rode for, plus past team-mates and rivals at club and international level.
"Michael accepts that not everyone has nice things to say about him but he is now a much more mature person than the one that went off the rails in the 80s and 90s and is ready to face his critics. This is no whitewash - how could it possibly be? - and I hope readers agree that it is a balanced and objective read.
"And Michael has to be applauded for the fact that he did not ask for even one negative comment about him to be removed from the manuscript. And some of that personal criticism of him is scathing.
"Michael has experienced and done some things that he wished he hadn't - his heavy involvement in drugs which led to him serving three prison sentences will no doubt raise eyebrows - but these were defining periods of his life and he knows they cannot simply be ignored or glossed over. This book has given him the chance to confront his previous demons head-on and the lengthy chapters in which he talks about drugs and prison are two of the most enthralling in the book."
Michael suggested the possible title of Life On The Edge but happily settled for Back From The Brink because his story is also one of personal triumph over adversity. "He nearly died at the age of nine and look at how he has fought his way back from where he was after his 'full-on life of drugs' to the success he enjoys today," continues McDonald, "so Back From the Brink has a more aptly positive ring to it.
"A lot of people have criticised Mike for what he's done in the past - and fair enough, he has certainly brought a lot of that on himself, but too many are quick to forget, or overlook, his many great achievements in speedway. It's debatable how much of his gifted talent he really 'wasted'. After all, he became speedway's third youngest World Champion in 1980, aged 21, and World Long-track Champion (Britain's first) a year later. He won two World Team Cup gold medals, back-to-back British Championships and every top individual international and national title in the sport between 1975 and his retirement from racing in the early-90s. How many riders, past or present, would love a racing CV like Michael's?
"But having sunk to the lowest depths he showed great character to claw his way back to respectability and is now enjoying success in business as one of the sport's leading engine tuners. Tai Woffinden, Britain's newest GP challenger and one of our brightest talents, has put his faith in Michael, as have numerous others who appreciate his skill in the workshop and his wealth of experience.
"He really has come back from the brink," added McDonald, who wrote the acclaimed Kenny Carter book, Tragedy, in 2007.
This book is available from www.retro-speedway.com
This article was first published on 8th July 2010
"Boy, I bet this book that Micheal Lee put out really gets down to the dirt. Should be a real good read not like all the other stars that keep everything quiet to make themselves look good. I don't think there is another book like it on the market as far as controversy goes. "
"Any chance of a excerpt? I know other books on Chris Morton, Kenny Carter, Simmo etc have appeared on this web site, it would be interesting to read about Mike, perhaps both positive and negative views. I look forward to reading it hopefully in the near future."
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