Had Adrian Street decided to go with a mainstream publisher, we probably would have ended up with a 250 page autobiography skimming all aspects of his life, with the majority of it devoted to his pro wrestling career. However, he decided to go the self-publishing route, and the result is really something unique. Clearly, and self-admittedly, Street wanted to tell his story on his own terms, and what you get here is not just a brief reminiscence of his ring career but the first step in a testament to his entire life. Although 279 pages, 'My Pink Gas Mask' is narrowly spaced and would probably run well over 300 if published by a well-known print house specializing in this type of book.
This initial volume covers his earliest days growing up in Brynmawr, Wales. Street has an impressive memory and we are given a fascinating glimpse into his childhood in the ration-restricted landscape of wartime Britain. Known best for his groundbreaking ring persona which took a Gorgeous George-style effeminate gimmick and ramped it up ten notches, Street was, from the start, a pugnacious and determined fighter who grew up in a working class rural village culture which admired strong men who could fight a good fight.
Early in the book, the narrative bounces back and forth between his own experiences and those of his father who, having donned the khaki in Street's infancy, was serving serving in the Pacific theatre. This dual narrative builds until their eventual, and sadly anti-climactic, reunification. The story continues into the post war years and his mid-teens.
Street is a natural storyteller and his commentary on matters related to religion, schooling, family life, various 'pet' hobbies, and copious schoolyard scraps are frequently hilarious and occasionally a bit disturbing. However, for those readers primarily looking to learn about his mat career, you will not find much concerning the subject in this first volume. Wrestling does not really enter much into the picture until well into the book's second half. With that said, however, this reviewer humbly encourages readers who typically gorge on heavy doses of WWE-published material to expand their horizons a bit. If that's not going to happen (your loss), you might want to start with Volume Two. Conversely, this book would be of great interest to readers who could care less about professional wrestling, including those seeking compelling coming-of-age stories (perhaps those who previously sunk their teeth into 'Angela's Ashes' or similar works), wartime history, and further reading in the so-called British "hardman" genre.
As a self-published work, this book does have some flaws. By Street's own admission, it is wholly self-written and self-edited. Accordingly, grammar errors, most especially in the form of sentence fragments, run throughout. Some might find it a bit distracting. On the other hand, if you chose to suspend disbelief and view it all as some form of literary device, you can certainly run with it. Neverthless, for this reason alone, the book cannot be given full marks.
Volume Two, also purchased through Amazon, now awaits me, and I am pretty confident that I'll be picking up Three and Four as well. Good job Adrian Street!