Broad-brush book reviews – 2
Covering sport, mystery, art and music, Iain Robertson continues his exploration of some of the best new books on sale towards the end of this year, each of which might have significantly broader appeal than their subject matters propose.
The Ryder Cup
By Nick Callow
ISBN: 978 1787 391048
Despite declaring itself as both independent and unofficial, the front cover legend (‘The Definitive History…’) adds to my concerns about this full-size, hardback book about the Ryder Cup, often referred to as golf’s greatest competition. For a start, does your coffee table have enough space for it? Its 272pp of high-quality print and picture reproduction would certainly qualify it. There may also be significant benefits attached to its independence, as there are already far too many blatant promotional tomes out there that only serve the intentions of their organising bodies. The author is certainly a fan of the game referred to jokingly as a sporting diversion that ruins a pleasant country walk. Yet, every aspect of the Ryder Cup is revealed, from its 17-inch tall gilded trophy, with British golfing legend, Abe Mitchell, who was Samuel Ryder’s coach and sporting mentor, modelled for perpetuity on its lid, to the several superstars who have played the game. Colourful and fascinating, this book does explain the Ryder Cup and what it stands for in glorious and comprehensive detail. With the Europe team having claimed victory only recently in Paris, the Ryder Cup is certainly hot news, which makes this excellent book such a fine record (albeit, missing the current status) and worthy of any golf fan’s book collection.
Anthony Joshua – Portrait of a Sporting Hero
By Iain Spragg
ISBN: 978 1787 390447
Hero worship can be a dangerous thing. All too frequently, heroes can fall from grace, especially when they cease to be greats and slump into their human traits. There have been innumerable casualties across the many fields of existence but sporting heroes can mean so much to so many people that it is the sheer pressure that can make them buckle. Although I am not necessarily a fan of biographies on high-flyers, because the very art of bio and autobiographical presentations is flawed by their emergent qualities, Anthony Oluwafemi Olaseni Joshua, the subject of this one, has a fascinating story to tell. His life started in a manner that might be termed ‘typical’. A black kid, from Watford, his Nigerian parents stopped him from becoming a crime statistic. He started boxing at the age of 18 years and to state that his sporting life has been meteoric might even be termed as understatement. Standing two metres tall and tipping the scales at a muscly 18-stones, he is as fit as the proverbial butcher’s dog and, while boxing does have something of a mixed reputation, his innate sense of balance and ambition is turning the young man, who is yet to turn 30 years of age, into an artistic performer. He already holds three of the four major titles in the sport. The author is very matter of fact about his muse and the story unfolds through just ten chapters, 160pp and a down to earth writing style that is concise and remarkably unopinionated. The professional boxer’s life, like so many sportspeople, is a limited one. It is also a potentially dangerous one, if the boxer succumbs to injuries. While there is sure to be a ‘follow-up’ on this young chap’s career, this book is interesting in that it furnishes the reader with the aspects that make up a phenomenal sportsman.
KGB Killer Puzzles Dossier
By Dmitry Raskolnikov
ISBN: 978 1787 391741
Thanks to the news headlines related to a couple of Russian ‘tourists’ keen to explore (over just a rushed couple of days) the octagonal, 123m height of Salisbury Cathedral’s spire, the Russian secret service has been drawn into western public consciousness…again. Described by the author as a tail that can wag a very vicious bear, the KGB is poisonous, seemingly subtle, subversive and manipulative, exercising the political intentions of an amazing country that truly deserves better. While not exactly encouraging a recruitment drive, the author has compiled a ‘manual’ from former field agents’ recollections that provides a brief history of the organisation and more than 100 puzzles and tests of intellect, which were used to assess prospective candidates. The challenge, if you wish to take it, is to reach the end to survive and thrive. Fortunately, the solutions are also provided. Having tried several of the tests, I managed to reach over halfway through the book, before deciding to leaf through to the answers. Laid out in a fun way, it is a most challenging book to which I shall return, which makes a difference to trying Suduko in The Sun. I believe that the mental tasks will be enjoyable to a wide selection of readers.
By William E Wallace
ISBN: 978 0233 005638
Andre Deutsch (a Carlton Books imprint)
You do not need to be an art lover, or even a part-time historian, to appreciate the phenomenal Renaissance works of art produced by 88 years old Michelangelo Buonarroti, the Italian better known by his forename. Sculptor, painter, architect and even inventor par excellence, while we may believe that we know of him, the truth is that his entire existence was shrouded in myth and mystery and, as a result, we know very little. Thankfully, his works have survived and been allowed to survive as culturally vital icons. He was and remains an inspiration. Yet, he was also a poet and correspondent and carefully documented records of his 300 poems, 600 drawings, 1,400 letters and more than 300 pages of personal and professional letters remain as his legacy. Descended from the medieval counts of Canossa, Michelangelo (b. 6th March 1475) was also an aristocrat. The author reveals much of what we know but a whole lot more about this amazing man. Peppered with photographs and full-colour reproductions of his greatest works of art, this book is an art appreciator’s perfect, 160pp tome. If you love art, it is an ideal and concise book about probably the greatest artist, whom has ever lived.
The White Album – Revolution, Politics & Recording
By Brian Southall
ISBN: 978 1787 391871
Without any doubt, one of my favourite music albums of all time is The White Album, by The Beatles. Ironically, thanks to its all-white album cover featuring only a lightly embossed group name on it, the album was actually ‘untitled’. Yet, it was a seminal work by a group that had been influenced by a blend of drugs, Indian culture and the politics of the late-1960s’ era. Each of its members was living out their existences in full public glare, by a media that was almost as manic as the fans. The author of this intelligent and ingenious 192pp hardback is known as a skilled journalist and consultant to the music industry. Already well-published, with several excellent music books to his name, it is also clear that he was influenced in a major way by The Beatles. The book is split cleverly between Sides A and B, with the first side providing a definitive guide to the album, the recording processes and the activities that surrounded its creation. Side B deals with the changing face of politics in 1968, how the band drew heavily from the world around its members, while also delving into the design of the album, its artwork and legacy. Accompanied by a superb array of images, some of which have never appeared elsewhere, this excellent book captures perfectly the revolutionary moment from musical history.