Book Review: #speedwaylife
Jeff Scott's books are seldom uncontroversial and this description certainly can't be applied to his latest one - #speedwaylife. The rather curious title will no doubt have already alerted 'tweeters' to its likely content, for this is a collection of the best tweets (from twitter), comments and quotes from the 2011 speedway season. These are from the riders, officials and supporters who played their part in the speedway story of last year.Running to over 250 pages it's clearly been a sustained effort to source, collate and edit these quotes into book form. The controversy around the work is whether or not it's ethical/legal to pick up content from sources such as twitter and publish it in book form. Clearly a rider sitting at an Airport at 4am waiting for a flight to Sweden may tweet something that they'd never imagine would be published again months later in a commercial work. The publisher will presumably have taken advice on the legalities involved, thought it's hard not to feel sympathy for anyone who is unhappy that their comments have been used. That £5 of the cover price goes to the Speedway Riders Benevolent Fund is perhaps an admission from the author that he owes much to the riders who have, in a sense, largely written this book for him. Leaving aside that particular argument, there are other niggles with the book. Unless you followed the 2011 season in forensic detail you will undoubtedly be stumped at times by some of the comments. They aren't contextualised, just listed chronologically. Similarly some comments are banal in nature - "Waiting for a nice steak" (Dakota North on 9th May). A valuable insight into the life of the modern-day speedway rider or a throw away comment that might have been best forgotten about? Although you have to separate the wheat from the chaff, there are some most interesting comments made from riders at all levels, for example Ben Morley explains the challenges facing young up and comers: "I think I live in the workshop and Mum and Dad run up and down the country just to help me out. It's madness going out there if I have a crash and bend something it could turn into half a season's wages! The sport is so expensive, you have to find sponsors but everyone says they are in recession. This year I sent out 75 sponsor letters and I only got two replies saying sorry but there's a recession on." At the other end of the scale, Greg Hancock (described as a twitter slut by Freddie Lindgren) was able to thank his fans directly after his World Title win: "Thanks to everyone for all the freakin great messages before and after the event. Oh what a feelin. Gotta sleep on the Sprinter hotel now" The year's biggest controversies are also covered: "I think Eddie is a great kid, but I think people have over-exaggerated the amount of riders doing this. People have created this culture of 'everyone is at it' and that has created the problem for Edward. We all want to know the sport is clean and I've got to say that the reaction I've had from my own riders, and also a couple of riders from other clubs, is astonishing. It's astonishing how angry these people actually are and it leads me to believe that this isn't widespread. Certain people have been banging on about this for a long time and they're doing the sport a disservice because they're suggesting everyone is at it. Quite clearly they're not" - Jon Cook Some of the tweets are just downright bizarre - such as this from Ludvig Lindgren on 4th July: "On the coach to the airport! Lady next to me is smelling shit but hopfully I stink worse"
It's an entertaining read, though mainly a book you dip in and out of, rather than a page-turner that will keep you gripped. Definitely one that we feel that comes down to personal taste, rather than one we would describe as an essential purchase for all.
How to buy #speedwaylife
This article was first published on 5th February 2012
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