Top critical review
on 23 March 2014
All the other reviews of this are extremely positive but, at the risk of going against the grain (a little pun, made in reference to "bulgur wheat", as you'll no doubt have already noticed) I wasn't quite so impressed. Still ranked as the number one best seller within the popular "child murder" category of amazon's bookstore, as the product description says, this account of the James Bulger story was originally released on 14th February 2013 (in one of the most transparently cynical ploys to cash in on the Valentine's spending rush within living memory). As we all know, he was sadly murdered at a young age by juvenile killers Robert Thompson and Terry Venables. Shoot the messenger if you must, but in my opinion that tragic demise cut his life altogether too short to warrant an engaging biography. If you want a little more bang for your buck, the innings put in by Bob Hope makes for a far more worthy piece of reading, with considerably less padding out and many more amusing anecdotes to endear the reader. The biography of his hundred years on the planet provides absolutely cracking value for money, by comparison (at a cost of scarcely more than ten pence per year depicted). Even Justin Bieber had some four or five times as many years behind him, before he too was the subject of an exceedingly thin biographical offering. If you're thinking about buying this out of a twisted, fascination with a gruesome murder (and, yes, that's exactly why you're thinking of buying it- it's no coincidence that parents of an infant who died of some mundane illness in obscurity, without grabbing any headlines, tend not to get the same chance to cash in on child mortality) I'd personally suggest that you go for a Sharon Tate biography. Not only do you get an account of her death at the hands of religious cult leader Marilyn Manson, but there's also the additional bonus of some thirty or more years of life. Obviously her prior existence wasn't even half as interesting as the way in which she was butchered to death, but it's nice to have all the rest (just in case you ever get around to reading about her life too).
Anyway, my biggest problem with this work is the constant air of reverence behind how he speaks of his son (I also began to detect a distinct negative bias whenever he refers to the killers- it's a real pity that he couldn't have tried to be a little more impartial in his tone). I suspect that a neutral 3rd party could have dispassionately uncovered a lot more gritty home truths, that appear to have completely bypassed the focal point of a doting father's rose-tinted spectacles. Had Andrew Morton been on hand to put together an unauthorised biography, he could doubtless have dug up plenty of eye opening stories about half-eaten biscuits getting carelessly left on the upholstery, crayon marks being scrawled all over the lounge wallpaper and occasions when he was witnessed pushing in to the front of queues for slides etc. As it stands, we receive relatively little insight into the subject's darker side, which has been all but swept under the carpet- in a shockingly sanitised portrayal of a character who doubtless had far more flaws to his private persona than the public has yet been permitted to catch a glimpse of. A biography that fails to deliver on the implied moral contract with the reader to dish the dirt is scarcely worth reading, in my opinion. Christopher Ciccone held little back when writing about his relationship with his sister Madonna but, if you were expecting something in a similar vein from Ralph Bulger regarding his son, I'm afraid to say that this simply isn't the same kind of honest expose.
PS. If you fancy playing a good old joke on a mate of yours, I highly recommend downloading the "This is what Jon Venables looks like now" meme generator app on your phone. Simply upload a picture of a chum, allow the app to attach text identifying him as the now fully grown child-killer and then post it on Facebook and Twitter. Haha! Admittedly, my friend Roger did get beaten black and blue (after it went viral and had tens of thousands of hits) when Liverpool had a game in our city, but it's just a bit of harmless fun really. To be honest, I'm surprised anyone even took it seriously (given that he's a wheelchair-ridden 75 year old) but I suppose that you should never overestimate the intelligence of your average Internet lynch mob.