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Gold Rush
Gold Rush
by Michael Johnson
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Jack of all trades, master of none, 13 Jun 2012
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This review is from: Gold Rush (Hardcover)
Considering my self-admitted voracious appetite for sports writing, I found this book difficult to get into. I feel this is mainly due to the fact that 'Gold Rush', an updated 'Slaying the Dragon' from Michael Johnson, tried to be too many things at once.

Part autobiography, part analysis on Olympic champions past and present, and part instruction on sprinting technique, this book was always going to be a challenge to compile and arrange in a seamless fashion. Whilst the components of the book are of great interest - I principally bought this book to read about Johnson's career - the book does not flow easily.

The communication between Johnson and other Olympic champions is great to read, but somewhat curious in parts. Steve Redgrave, Mark Spitz and Jackie-Joyner Kersee, among others, are all interviewed and their accounts of training regimen, performance, rising to the occasion and obligatory stances on sporting drug use are compelling. Johnson also gives interesting passages on some of the 'one-hit wonders' of Olympics history, such as Joe DeLoach. However what is somewhat unusual, when considering the book charts the pursuit of what makes an Olympic champion, and the fact that Johnson was a sprinter himself, is that Carl Lewis is not interviewed, bearing in mind that Lewis is the most successful Olympian athlete in history. This could of course be due to the facts that a) Johnson and Lewis never got on whilst they raced, and b) Lewis is spectacularly evasive these days, as testified to by Richard Moore in his 2012 book 'The Dirtiest Race in History'. A further, somewhat inconsequential gripe I also have is that there is a bit of shameless trumpet-blowing from Johnson on his business ventures, especially in chapters that don't appear to require such information...

Certainly not a bad book by any means - I would recommend this however purely for people with a level of interest in Johnson himself. The casual reader would likely not stick with it.


The Dirtiest Race in History: Ben Johnson, Carl Lewis and the 1988 Olympic 100m Final (Wisden Sports Writing): Ben Johnson, Carl Lewis and the Olympic 100m Final
The Dirtiest Race in History: Ben Johnson, Carl Lewis and the 1988 Olympic 100m Final (Wisden Sports Writing): Ben Johnson, Carl Lewis and the Olympic 100m Final
by Richard Moore
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 17.09

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing after only 9.79 seconds, 12 Jun 2012
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Ever since my January 2012 pre-order for this book, I have found myself counting down the days to finally read about the sporting moment that transfixed me as a young lad. I have read many sports biographies over the years and never anticipated one as much as this. Over 20 years on, the 1988 Olympics men's 100m final and the aftermath are as resonant as ever, so it was high time that someone wrote a decent account of both the race itself, and the ramifications of Johnson's disqualification and rescinded medal.

In terms of the research and the writing of the book - in concurrence with the first reviewer - the author cannot be faulted. Richard Moore exhaustively, yet enjoyably, leaves no stone unturned in setting the scene for the most maligned sprint meet of all time. With total accuracy, he builds the picture of athletics during the Eighties - which includes the significance of the emerging 'arms race' between drug users in athletics and anti-doping agencies - as well as the differing paths both main protagonists (Carl Lewis and Ben Johnson) followed from school to Seoul. Moore meets everyone of relevance to the 100m final - managers, coaches, colleagues, drug-testers, other competing athletes and of course, Lewis and Johnson themselves.

Those who follow athletics will realise that Moore has written about two men who are intriguing in many ways; notably within their achievements, their personal lives, and their reception to worldwide (and native) audiences. Even today, it is fascinating how Lewis and Johnson polarise opinion, and just how many Lewis detractors and Johnson fans exist - and this does not go unnoticed by Moore.

Earlier in the year, I contacted the author to verify that the self-same Richard Moore who wrote much-lauded cycling biographies had also produced this book ('The Dirtiest Race...' was not listed on his website at the time). In confirming, he mentioned in his response that, over the course of compiling the book, "Johnson was not all bad, and Lewis was not all good."

That indeed cannot be argued with. But as the only slight criticism I can make, I came away from Moore's book feeling as though a bit too much credence was given to Johnson's various theories and claims, and in particular, the now infamous 'mystery man' set-up explanation for his positive test. Over the years, Johnson has given more reasons and subsequent U-turns for his fall from grace than I care to remember. So it is somewhat puzzling that the 'mystery man' theory - whilst definitely interesting - is given such focus. Don't get me wrong - I was pleased Johnson was getting a fair hearing; otherwise this book would simply be a lengthy exercise in condemning a 'drug cheat'. I just wasn't so sure that such gravitas should be given to suggestions that Johnson wasn't entirely to blame for his downfall. However, considering Johnson has held on to the possibility of sabotage so steadfastly, Moore was right to explore this even if it does allow Johnson a very unlikely scapegoat.

The 100m final in Seoul '88 was so fascinating, and so far beyond a mere sporting event that it has long deserved a comprehensive and fair re-telling, and Moore's latest work is up to that task - neutral journalism on this sporting landmark is very hard to come by and Moore, by and large, strikes a great balance. In a similar vein to Moore's brilliant book 'In Search of Robert Millar', the progression and narrative are really enjoyable. The hours flew by whilst reading this - and I think that would be the case even if the reader has only a passing curiosity of the scandal(s) of Ben Johnson's 1988 disqualification. Moore is definitely one of the best sports writers around - enforced by his ability to recapture the magic and marvels of the sporting heroes of which he writes. In an unprecedented move, I have actually started to read this book for a second time - something I have never done with any sporting literature. Thoroughly recommended.


Marcelo Rios: The Man We Barely Knew
Marcelo Rios: The Man We Barely Knew
by Mr. Scoop Malinowski
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.08

2.0 out of 5 stars More of a series of interviews than a career account, 7 Jun 2012
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Upon discovering the release of this book, I was delighted that finally, some homage was being paid to one of the more fascinating characters of (relatively) recent tennis history. Marcelo Rios had real flair and real attitude; but was much less well received (and hence, less known to the public at large) than his contemporaries, Messrs. Agassi and Sampras.

Scoop Malinowski's book lists exhaustive first-hand accounts of Rios from players across the tennis pantheon (and I mean almost everyone you can think of who has picked up a racquet professionally in the last 30 years). Malinowski must have asked everyone present and past on the ATP circuit for some input on Rios. In addition, many coaches and tournament officials give various opinions and anecdotes on the enigma that is Marcelo Rios.

Some of these accounts are really fascinating insights and suppositions about just why Marcelo was so elusive, and seemingly, so often disinterested in his chosen profession. Many surprising comments are made, particularly about how MR actually had a very good work ethic in training, despite this not always being reflected within his matches. His influence on current players is also discussed, and some great matches that he played are recounted by many.

However, there are some very fundamental issues with this book. The most obvious one in my eyes is that despite the book comprising specifically-named chapters, there seems to be absolutely no order or structure. Malinowski does intersperse the vast number of testimonials of MR with some biographical background, but not nearly enough to give the book some chronological coherence. From first to last page, comments from players/officials/coaches vary on different parts of his career. In addition, there is a HUGE amount of repetition in the various interviews - I lost count of how many people concurred that he was "very talented, but flawed" - whilst true, this does not need to be rammed home so continuously. The book would have greatly benefited from Malinowski being more selective in featured accounts, instead of just trying to fit everybody's opinion in.

With a bit more order, more biography and some general tidying up, this book could have been so much better. As it is, I think it only warrants three stars for those who are interested in Marcelo Rios. The casual tennis fan will likely not even give it that. Definitely approach this with caution.


High Strung: Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, and the Untold Story of Tennis's Fiercest Rivalry
High Strung: Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, and the Untold Story of Tennis's Fiercest Rivalry
by Stephen Tignor
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 13.54

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sheer tennis hedonism, 2 Jun 2012
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After reading just the first few pages of this book, it was apparent that this would be a great account of the subject matter. As a lifelong tennis fan, and having read most tennis biographies/autobiographies that are available, I don't mind saying that this book has to be up there with 'Duel For The Crown' and 'Mr. Nastase' as among the best tennis books I have ever read.

The enjoyment of 'High Strung' is no doubt helped greatly with the rich subject material - there are a few books now which document the McEnroe-Borg rivalry, and with good reason - it is as Hollywood-scripted as any sporting rivalry can get. Most tennis fans, casual and hardcore alike, will know the basics about the two tennis legends and their fascinating encounters, in addition to their contrasts in playing style, demeanour and private lives.

What many people will not realise is just how much Borg and McEnroe had in common, and how tortured each was in their own way. The book unravels a comprehensive analysis on the zenith years of both their playing careers; set in the backdrop of the early professional era, and with a fine supporting cast of tennis contemporaries - Nastase, Gerulaitis, Connors, Tanner and the emerging Lendl. Author Stephen Tignor does a fantastic job with prose, sequential writing and most importantly, capturing the thrill of the 'golden era' of tennis, where these first professionals were more akin to rock stars than sportsmen.

Sandwiched between dying throes of the amateur game and the onset of the power players of the mid-eighties, the book also gives a fascinating account of the history of the tournaments that played a large part in Borg's and McEnroe's many duels, with everything segueing wonderfully to culminate in a rich history of tennis.

Whilst the book defintely focuses on Borg and McEnroe, it would be wrong to say that it does so exclusively. Jimmy Connors and Vitas Gerulaitis also are given much in the way of biography, and this is excellent because at the time of writing this review, neither of these players has a dedicated book charting their tennis careers (Connors' is due next year, in 2013). Thus, Tignor's book serves to provide some very interesting insights into other players. But make no mistake - Borg and McEnroe are definitely centre stage here (please ignore the unfair 2-star review elsewhere for this product).

Even if your interest in this era of tennis past only extends to seeing the omnipresent and near-mythical Wimbledon final of 1980, this book will grab you. Covering everything - the players, the tournaments, the nightlife, the problems and the evolution of the sport - you will definitely feel as though you were right there in those heady days as you read.

An absolute gem.


SoundMAGIC PL11 Earphones - Copper
SoundMAGIC PL11 Earphones - Copper
Price: 19.18

3.0 out of 5 stars Great price, great sound - poor reliability, 6 April 2012
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My search for the ideal earphones/headphones continues.

I first came across these after Stuff Magazine waxed lyrical about the great audio quality and the low price. I bought a pair and I have to say, all aspects of sound quality are really good for the price. The bass and treble are nicely balanced and in terms of ergonomics, they are well-designed - not too intrusive in the ear (unlike Shures and their ilk).

The cable clip is really handy. To this day, I don't understand why more earphones do not provide one. The cable is just the right length and the pack comes with a good enough range of changeable rubber buds, and carry pouch.

Unfortunately, I have to report that I have purchased 5 pairs in the space of 2 years (I've stuck with them for so long because of the low price and decent sound quality). The 'phones always fail in the same way - the rubber cord base peels away from the metallic body. Although they can be glued, I find that once the earphones fail in this way, the corresponding left or right ear cable fails completely shortly after.

Admittedly, my earphones are used for several hours each day; but even then, an average lifespan of 4/5 months for all the pairs I have owned is not really acceptable.

I am currently on my last pair, after which I will revert to the Creative EP-830s - even cheaper on Amazon at the time of writing, more durable, and better sounding with my Creative MP3 player.


Threads [DVD] [1984]
Threads [DVD] [1984]
Dvd ~ Karen Meagher
Offered by rileys dvds
Price: 34.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A mirror to a disastrous future that could yet happen, 6 April 2012
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This review is from: Threads [DVD] [1984] (DVD)
I imagine that if you have got to this particular product review of `Threads', you will already have read countless five-star reviews of this film; and rightly so. The film is indeed truly frightening, disturbing, affecting and as many other reviewers have stated, life-changing.

This portrayal of a possible nuclear war, the impact, the aftermath and the sheer devastating consequences may not be what would actually come to pass; but the plausibility and the all too believable sequence of events within the film is what really affected me on first viewing (2008), and equally so today (2012), as I am sure it has affected everyone else who has seen it. This film is one of the rare occasions where entertainment - whether literature or cinema - transcends being a mere story, and becomes something more; in this case, it takes the seed of fear that is a possibility of nuclear war, and in two hours grows that seed to grim completion. By the time the final shocking scene passes that heralds the end of the film, the viewer no longer considers nuclear war as something they have never truly thought or worried about, but instead as an event that they would never, ever want to imagine occurring in their worst nightmares.

There are several incredible things that 'Threads' achieves, aside of course from terrifying the viewer into despair. One of the most effective plot dynamics of 'Threads' is that this tale of nuclear apocalypse takes place not in London or New York, but in none other than Sheffield - a city in the North of the UK, which as a region is normally reserved for caricature soap operas or light-hearted homely tea-time family fillers. As many other commentators have stated, there are no overblown Hollywood production values here - the grittiness of life in a Northern community adds to the realism. So accurately in fact, that most of us can associate with the everyday lifestyle of the protagonists in the story, and indeed imagine behaving and responding just as they do within subsequent events.

I wasn't born during the real scare of the Cold War in the 1980s; goodness knows how even more shocking this film must have been to those who were living in those uncertain times. The film seamlessly intertwines the logistical, scientific and historical aspects of the Cold War backdrop. The characters in the film follow real advice given in that era during the nuclear attack, in the form of the 'Protect and Survive' information bulletins. These televised broadcasts were themselves fearful viewing; even more so in the context of this story. I can only imagine how frightened some viewers must have been seeing this level of detail in 1984.

Once the attack hits, the film gives a brutal and rapid depiction of a society completely breaking down, with no immediate or even long-term hope of the situation improving. Contingencies and plans for allocating power of central to local government in such circumstances fail abysmally; emergency services are rendered ineffective, and the barbaric way of life - effectively a human devolution - depicted after the threads of society are torn apart are a million miles away from the beginning in rural Sheffield. Every consequence and impact of such an horrific incident has been thought out, and this is evident from the initial panic before the incident, with momentum gathering pace relentlessly up to and beyond the bomb being dropped.

This film remains one of the starkest depictions of war ever created. For all but the most oblivious, a small part of your thinking will change forever after watching this film - so be prepared.


Hermann Maier: The Race of My Life
Hermann Maier: The Race of My Life
by Hermann Maier
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars An inside look at the real Herminator, 2 Mar 2012
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As someone who does not follow alpine skiing that often, I still knew and understood Hermann Maier's achievements within the sport as nothing less than sensational (and that was prior to reading this book). His prevalence on the world stage from the latter part of the 90's through to the early 2000's was hard to miss, even for the most casual Ski Sunday fan. Therefore, the news of his dreadful motorcycle crash in 2001 was all the more hard-hitting, given the 'invincible' aura he had built up over the years - both through race results and spectacular head-first skiing fall recoveries alike.

Maier's book has been translated into English from the original German publication. However, apart from a handful of unusual exclamations of Maier's thoughts, you would never know this. Brilliantly constructed, it combines the life-changing crash as the main element; together with flashbacks to the incident, previous results, and many great stories from his life as a skier. The narrative spares no detail in the extent of Maier's 2001 injuries, and conveys the hoplessness and desperation of his physical situation at that time, having to re-adjust to simple tasks like walking again, let alone skiing downhill into oblivion. Maier's triumphant return, climaxing at his victorious 2004 season, really is the icing on the cake and makes a wonderful conclusion to the autobiography.

I enjoyed this book, particularly because it was not a formulaic delve into his results and performances. Maier was very candid about events surrounding his accident, and it was great to really see the man behind the 'Herminator' facade. The best sporting autobiographies (or indeed biographies) are those that transcend the statistics and the sporting discipline in question - and this is a book that would certainly appeal to anyone fascinated by how one man could change his life, after being dealt a sudden and debilitating hand. Another flawless victory for the boy Hermann.


In Search of Robert Millar: Unravelling the Mystery Surrounding Britain's Most Successful Tour De France Cyclist
In Search of Robert Millar: Unravelling the Mystery Surrounding Britain's Most Successful Tour De France Cyclist
by Richard Moore
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most intriguing sporting characters ever, 8 Feb 2012
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I approached this book with somewhat unorthodox reasons for wanting to read it - the author, Richard Moore, is due to release a book this Summer (2012) about the famous drugs-tainted 100-metre race that featured Ben Johnson, Carl Lewis and Linford Christie during the 1988 Summer Olympics. As an avid fan of athletics and Carl Lewis in particular, I wanted to read this book to gauge if Moore does his research, and if he is likely to be fair and unbiased in his portrayal of the sporting protagonists, ahead of the forthcoming 'Dirtiest Race in History'.

I wasn't disappointed. There can be no better test subject for an impartial biography than Robert Millar - a man who is truly the Marmite of the cycling world. As Moore's book showed, during his cycling career Millar polarised opinion between friends, colleagues, journalists and rivals alike. Moore, whilst evidently in adulation of Millar and his achievements, does not hesitate to convey all aspects of Millar, including those that do not reflect brilliantly on his character.

Evident also, is the fact that Moore did some serious research and digging of the archives to present this re-telling of Millar's life, prior/during/post professional cycling. Even to the most casual cycling fan - like me - this book was really interesting, in-depth, factually accurate and had a gripping dialogue at the end of the book (which I won't spoil here).

The book is like a treasure hunt, exploring Millar's stomping ground for any clues whatsoever about, well, where he actually is. But it is so much more than that; providing great commentary about British perception of cycling during Millar's career and the transformation of the professional tour from continentally exclusive to the breakthrough of the 'foreign legion' (Roche, Kelly, Millar, LeMond et al).

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I just hope that I will be writing the same thing about Moore's next book come June 2012.


The Complete Book of the Olympics
The Complete Book of the Olympics
by David Wallechinsky
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Definitive reference, 6 Dec 2011
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There isn't much to say about this - except for that at the time of writing, there may be a 2012 edition, which will update from the last 2004 Olympics which is covered in this particular edition.

A complete reference book, this gives every result of every event - current and discontinued - in Olympic history. Sensibly laid out, contained within are interesting descriptions and background reading on each event, with more time dedicated to notable results (for example, long passages on Ben Johnson's drug-fuelled 1988 100m sprint, and the 1996 'Magnificent Seven' female gymnastic team). These passages themselves are well-sourced and rich in insight.

Indispensable for Olympic fans and stats-buffs alike.


Joking Apart: My Autobiography
Joking Apart: My Autobiography
by Donncha O'Callaghan
Edition: Hardcover

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Joking apart, this is a great autobiography!, 3 Dec 2011
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When I realised Donncha O'Callaghan was releasing an autobiography, I was keen to read it for two reasons. Firstly, I've always felt that outside of Irish supporters, DO'C is quite underrated as a player; and in addition, most books on people who are seen as jokers or messers often reveal a lot more under the veneer. True, DO'C is no Keith Moon in this respect, but it is definitely the case that there is far more to DO'C than someone famous for pulling pranks and having a bit of a laugh.

DO'C is frank - and at times, searingly honest - about his abilities as a player, his relationships with various squad members past and present, his opponents, his work ethic, his family and the effect of coaches and managers during his time as a player for both Munster and Ireland. For example I did not appreciate how long DO'C had to wait until he was accepted as a fully-fledged regular for both club and country, and the associated frustrations and insecurities are apparent, with nothing spared. In addition to this, I feel as though the book captures the emotion of all the highs and lows of the Munster/Ireland sides during his career very well, with most major tournaments and tests being given due attention without the narrative appearing formulaic in any way.

I also enjoyed the commentary throughout the book that showed the evolution of Rugby Union from shaking the amateur status toward the high-level fitness, technical game that it is today - DO'Cs playing career started under the mafioso of Peter Clohessy and Micky Galwey, who themselves represent the last vestiges of the old attitudes of playing the game. As with Ronan O'Gara's autobiography, you get a great sense of what goes on in the Munster dressing room; and the now legendary team ethic and merciless slagging sessions set the provincial team apart as unique amongst top level clubs.

Inevitably, despite DO'Cs apparent tiredness of the joker label, there are some really funny tales to tell, aside from all the famous ducks and ripped shorts anecdotes - some genuine laugh-out-loud moments exist; both from DO'Cs exploits, and from his delivery of on/off-field antics of people he has met along the way (personal favourite - DO'C being roared at if he can play no. 10 after a tough training tackle on Humphs...!)

It is worth noting that DO'C wrote the book with Denis Walsh, the writer who also assisted Ronan O'Gara with his own autobiography. However, DO'Cs book is more focussed on his own struggles and successes on a personal level - such as the intriguing relationship with Declan Kidney throughout his career, and the seemingly endless second row contenders for the Irish jersey in his early days. As with O'Gara's book, you certainly feel as though this is in Donncha's own words, which adds to the enjoyment of the read.

However, as with any active sportsperson who releases a book before retirement, there is always a sense of incompleteness - in this case, the book finishes with the recent 2011 World Cup campaign, and obviously with the disappointment of elimination still fresh, the book does end rather suddenly. I was also hoping for a bit more long-term views on his playing career, particularly how he feels about Ireland and how far in the horizon he is looking at this stage of his life.

It is easy to see why DO'C is such a popular character - but I admit I was guilty in thinking he was quite one-dimensional. This book definitely proves this is not the case. Highly recommended, even to the most casual rugby fan.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 4, 2012 1:30 PM GMT


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