i am currently reading a copy (for review in an entirely different publication) of the leper's bell by norman maclean, a distinctly scottish entertainer whose life places an entirely different perspective on the aspect of health than does that of his scottish compatriot, sir chris hoy. however, mr maclean was born in 1937, some 72 years ago, which almost by definition, gives him a great deal more living to describe than does that of mr hoy, who is exactly half his age. at one time, an autobiography was something to be stored in the grey matter or a large brown suitcase under the bed, for release to the general public when the author was past the age of taunts about those embarrassing events of childhood or early teens. no more is that the case, it would seem.
robert millar remained hidden from view for almost 45 years before richard moore had the perspicacity to celebrate his life and career by way of the written word, something that contrasts drastically with the publication of scots tennis player, andy murray's autobiography at the age of 21. it is hard to accept this necessity to rush into print while a star is still shining, because it has the slightly bitter taste of lucre about it. granted, as sir chris is wont to point out in this book, he and others in a similar position, will not be able to command their current income forever: remuneration depends on sporting success, something that has a niggling habit of decreasing a lot more quickly than it arrived. robert millar was once quoted as saying that past the age of thirty, he had to train twice as hard just to stay at the same level.
in this light, it's difficult to criticise chris hoy's need or right to put his life in words, despite it being only a couple of years since the publication of the aforementioned mr moore's heroes, villains and velodromes a large chunk of which concerned itself with the life and times of chris hoy, a book that was even updated to take account of the medal success in beijing. while reading chris hoy, the autobiography there was always that parrot on the shoulder reminding that the butler did it; the bit at the end would be about beijing, knighthood, and crashing. no suprise there.
however, in much the same way that i can watch star wars episodes four, five and six as often as you like (and mrs washingmachinepost likewise with the wizard of oz) even though i must have watched them several dozen times already, the rise and rise of sir chris hoy is a story that bears several repeats, especially if one has tartan in one's veins. reviewing books can be either a joy or a travail, depending on the skills of the author, and the hand of mr moore can be detected here (he is credited for his assistance in the acknowledgments at the back): very much a good thing. the book is well-paced, well written and very easy to read, and while there are no startling confessions or skeletons leaping out of closets, chris comes across as the down to earth character he still is behind the wall of agents, managers and other diversionary tactics.
the man is not short of a sense of humour either:
'my mum then met my dad, to whom she was introduced by mutual friends. but when they began going out... she still lived in glasgow, he in edinburgh. it is only about forty minutes by train now, but in those days it must have been difficult, travelling between the two cities by horse and cart.'
the book leads up to the olympics in beijing and the subsequent celebrations and knighthood, but then almost inexplicably jumps forward to valentines day, 2009 and that accident at copenhagen that took hoy out for a lengthy part of this year. i say inexplicably because the event which i have just attended this past weekend - the braveheart fund annual ride and dinner - was not only attended by chris hoy in 2008, but is the public face of that which sir chris hoy is patron. in fact last year's and this year's braveheart team jersey bears his signature. yet braveheart receives not a single mention throughout the 306 pages; not even in the comprehensive index. i didn't expect an entire chapter on this affiliation, but a mention would have been a nice touch. however, we now know that he does actually eat bran flakes for breakfast, how many calories are in those thigh muscles, and the rather incredible fact that his maximum power output on the track is a few mere watts under 2500.
that said, this is an enjoyable life's story that is unlikely to disappoint fans of sir chris. bizarrely, the book was released to almost no publicity at all on october 15th; bearing in mind that hoy has just won three gold medals at the track world cup this past weekend, perhaps publication could have been better timed to coincide.
posted tuesday 3 november 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................