Customer Reviews


32 Reviews
5 star:
 (15)
4 star:
 (12)
3 star:
 (3)
2 star:
 (2)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superbly crafted portrait
This is a quite wonderful book. Jim Perrin is a rare man: a mountaineer from working class roots who's also a very gifted writer, in my opinion the finest of all the mountaineering writers of late. He's an averagely competent climber - no extreme gymnast or Everest-conquering hero - but has been in the "scene" for decades and knew Whillans personally, who, besides being a...
Published on 22 Sep 2005 by Bill Ryan

versus
31 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An English Climbing Bukowski?
The Villain by Jim Perrin

I was excited when I bought this book and so wanted to enjoy it. The reasons why I did not, may say more about myself than the book. I have been climbing for a long time, I am widely read especially in climbing literature and I am also a complete intellectual snob.

If you are none of the above then please read all the other...
Published on 10 Feb 2007 by Dr. Gn Farquhar


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 4 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superbly crafted portrait, 22 Sep 2005
By 
Bill Ryan (England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This is a quite wonderful book. Jim Perrin is a rare man: a mountaineer from working class roots who's also a very gifted writer, in my opinion the finest of all the mountaineering writers of late. He's an averagely competent climber - no extreme gymnast or Everest-conquering hero - but has been in the "scene" for decades and knew Whillans personally, who, besides being a fabulously gifted climber armed with a devastating wit, was also famously bellicose. (Perrin's first encounter with Whillans was when Whillans invited him to 'step outslde' after he'd bumped him in a Welsh pub; people who didn't know Whillans often got into trouble with because he was so small - only five foot three. "But it's raining!" exclaimed Perrin, to his immediate embarrassment. "Aye, yer wet enough already", retorted Whillans, and walked away chuckling. They later became friends.)
The book is sublimely assembled and the acute poignancy of his subject - the "hardest man" in British climbing, who while broadly loved, revered and admired by the climbing community at large, was shunned in his later years by a sizeable minority of his peers - actually reduced me to tears in several places: each time, surprised by the sudden lump in my throat, I had to stop reading for a few minutes. This was a clearly a terribly difficult project (it took nearly twenty years to complete); in his preface he says the book was really written by the entire British climbing community, such was the quality and quantity of the material provided from every quarter. As I read on, quite unable to put the book down, I found myself increasingly admiring of Perrin's writing on what is a very challenging and unstraightforward subject - a respected friend, brilliant in many ways yet full of flaws and complexity, revered by the climbing community yet brim-full of contradictions. Some of the most moving parts of the book for me were the brilliant glimpses Perrin provided into the undoubted soft, sensitive, yet almost totally hidden core of this toughest and bravest of men: when he relished bouncing a balloon with a friend's small child (he thought no-one was watching); the great care he gave to those in difficulty in perilous and serious mountain situations (when he always came into his own; many described Whillans as the very finest mountaineer ever to share a tight corner with); the desperate hurt and betrayal he felt - and never got over - when Joe Brown, his old-time climbing partner and (some may say) nemesis, was invited to Kanchenjunga in 1953 but Whillans was overlooked; the times when as a small child he was a famous 'scrapper' but would always do the decent thing and own up when a friend was unjustly punished for one of Whillans' misdemeanours. For me, Whillans - in most, but not all, of his actions and behavior; the only exceptions occurred when he was drunk and a different, more violent and angry persona sometimes emerged - epitomises the very definition of 'integrity": when one's words, actions and beliefs are all in alignment, like it or not. The only aspect of the man that rarely broke surface was his own undoubtedly emotional core, which drove him in every way, and gave the lie to his sometimes apparently unkind, selfish or insensitive presentation of himself to his mountaineering brethren.
Here is one of a large number of impeccably crafted paragraphs:
"This vignette [the great Tom Patey's article for that year's Scottish Mountaineering Club Journal entitled "a Short Walk with Whillans'] by the finest comic essayist in climbing literature played a considerable role in establishing the persona of Whillans as doom-laded quipster and drollster, and in a mellow but perceptive way also brought out the character traits that were ultimately to contribute to the widespread disaffection with him among the companions on his later expeditions: the strategic indolence, the racism, the incessant scrounging, and the propensity for dogmatic utterance that would brook no contradiction. It also, in a brief and masterful final paragraph, captured beautifully the sense that here was a man who, for all his unique abilities and exceptional achievements, had hanging around him something of the atmosphere of failure, something of the sense of one unloved by those gods who bestow good fortune and easy chance on humankind; and perhaps also the sense of one who was growing 'tired of knocking at preferment's door': 'We got back to the Alpiglen in time for late lunch. The telescope stood forlorn and deserted in the rain. The Eiger had retired into misty oblivion, as Don Whillans retired to his favourite corner seat by the window.'"
If you appreciated this delicious little snippet, I suspect you'll greatly value the book: the finest and most masterful climbing biography I've yet had the pleasure to read. Jim Perrin deserves honours for his unswerving dedication to honesty, fairness, and some truly sublime descriptive writing in among it all.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Its Great, 14 Mar 2005
I think I've read all of Jim Perrin's previous books - they are all quite superb. I had also been aware that this book was in the process of being written - or had been written - for years. The reason for the delay in publication is explained in the introduction - but it was worth the wait. Quite simply, for anyone with even the slightest interest in climbing history, this book is sensational.
This is a biography of Don Whillans, maybe the greatest mountaineer of all time. The question of whether this is true - just how good, in a relative sense, was he - is one of the central themes of the book. There are two others that stand out. The first is an exploration of the fine line between myth and reality. The second theme is wasted talent - in a sport where many exponents continue at the highest level into their 40s and 50s, Whillans went downhill rapidly (metaphorically of course) after the 1970 ascent of Annapurna's South Face at the age of 38. Perrin's analysis of why this was so offers genuine insight into the nature and causes of motivation, which speaks beyond the confines of the tale in question.
Some of this involves technical aspects of climbing. For instance Perrin's consideration of the "Brown vs Whillans" debate cannot help being technical, and will entertain anyone with an established interest. But a key feature of this book is that for those unacquainted with the technicalities of climbing, Perrin offers some of the most transparent explanation you will find anywhere.
Bottom line - its great.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Villain and a Hero, 7 Mar 2005
By 
Peter Underwood (Kent United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
I loved this book.
It tells the story of a complex character using sources unavailable to previous writers. It is obviously written by a friend, but all the warts are here. And there are a lot of warts. Some of the legends are rightly debunked. Whillans was a loving husband, made heroic rescues and a droll speaker. He was also racist, a crude womaniser and a thug. He was also a quite wonderful climber. Whether he was better than the universally liked and admired Joe Brown is a point that is perhaps over done. They were both climbers of real genius.
I especially liked the footnotes. And there are a lot. Sometimes they were insightful. The author's first meeting with Whillans in a pub resulted in an invitation to 'step outside' (an invitation wisely turned down). Sometimes you wonder why the footnote is in the book at all. There is a short piece about the demise of the British Motorcycle industry. But they are always interesting.
Buy it, read it and enjoy it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth a read, 15 May 2014
By 
Simon Walton (Rossendale) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Villain: The Life of Don Whillans (Paperback)
I was actually shocked that one of Salford's most famous sons is barely recognised in his home city - Wikipedia didn't list him in Famous People from Salford (so I added him). Interestingly many of the nonentities on the list have barely been heard of outside of the north west, so to omit a global climbing icon seems odd. Mind you Joe Brown's also missing from the Manchester entries, so guess we're not really pop star material us climbers?

Ok this is the story of a great man, but like many great men, Whillans is flawed. You don't always achieve great things by being nice, so the warts and all biography is welcome in its honesty. It's also a humbling tribute to real men (and women also) who pioneered routes I still can't climb despite having sexy modern kit. Whillans would really have ripped the piss out of me I am sure.

It's very very readable - I don't think you have to be a climber to soak up the ambience of Whillan's world, and Jim Perrin skilfully avoids excluding the nonclimber as a reader by avoiding excessive use of jargon. Perrin also takes time to gently lay to rest many Whillans myths - but in a fashion that makes him more human - Whillans being noted for his excesses of aggression which made their way mainly via Dennis Grey into full blown climbing myth. The real Whillans isn't necessarily nice - but is very human.

Only one small niggle - Jim Perrin slightly overdoes the northern working class hero element of his narrative whilst railing against the excesses of authority in the form of teachers, park authorities, the police, and even bus conductors. It must be hard to write without exposing your own feelings and prejudices - but if you're going to strip away the myths to find the truth, do so consistently and without favour to your own world view.

Thanks Jim for a great book - and the story of a great man.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a good read, 27 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I chose this book for two reasons
1. Don Whillans, I had a few pints with him in the Padarn & at Bigil
2. Jim Perrin; I new Jim in the 70's/80's, but this is the first book of Jim's that I have read

Well done Jim you have Whillians to a ''T''
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


31 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An English Climbing Bukowski?, 10 Feb 2007
By 
Dr. Gn Farquhar (bermuda) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Villain: The Life of Don Whillans (Paperback)
The Villain by Jim Perrin

I was excited when I bought this book and so wanted to enjoy it. The reasons why I did not, may say more about myself than the book. I have been climbing for a long time, I am widely read especially in climbing literature and I am also a complete intellectual snob.

If you are none of the above then please read all the other (favourable) reviews and ignore mine.

It is fair to say that nobody could be better qualified than Jim Perrin to have written this biography. He was a contemporary of Whillans, has been a major part of climbing culture over the years and is an experienced climber and excellent writer.

However, Mr Perrin as an author, should know better than most people that the truth should never get in the way of a good story. This book is meticulously researched and fastidiously footnoted at great length. In fact the footnotes for me are the major downfall of the book. They account for almost as much text as the main body, which doesn't make for a flowing narrative.

It's tempting to just ignore these footnotes but some of the best anecdotes regarding Whillans and other players are inexplicably buried in them e.g. Beating the Germans at their national game, twice and the man bites police dog story "because it bit me first".

I never met Don Whillans but like most climbers have heard countless legendary tales regarding this larger than life but undoubtedly flawed climbing genius. Why couldn't Perrin have concentrated on Whillans' outstanding climbing achievements? For example Gritstone and Welsh desperates and Alpine and Himalayan successes in addition to his famous one-liners delivered in the pub and on pertinent occasions.

Instead, Perrin mentions the climbing achievements but continuously undermines them by comparing them unfavourably to those of Joe Brown and younger up and coming climbers such as Doug Scott. He continuously goes on and on about Whillans' climbing career being in demise and the "bell tolling" for the end etc whilst denigrating his continuing climbing achievements. In fact he was still going on expeditions to the Himalayas and South America in his forties. That seems pretty impressive to me. How many athletes continue to perform at that age, even now?

There are a lot of descriptions of the negative aspects of Whillans' character but beyond visiting his childhood home area and cataloguing his movements there is very little attempt by the biographer to come to an understanding of how Whillans' personality was shaped by his childhood and adolescent milieu. His parents are mentioned only briefly so that the reader understands that they existed but that is about it.

Perrin makes a better stab at attempting to understand how Whillans' character and temperament formed the motivation and impetus for his amazing climbing achievements. However during these passages he invariably gets sucked in to elaborations around his own climbing which culminate in his triumphant showdown style confrontation with Whillans during their last (social) meeting.

Perrin spends a lot of time describing Whillans the drinker but misses out on the Bukowskian parallel which could have brought an extra dimension to this aspect of his character.

My impression from the text was that Perrin just did not like Whillans. Which is a strange feeling to get from a biography. You would expect some kind of affinity to exist from the artist to his muse.

Unfortunately even for a climber like myself who admires Whillans, this book was at times tedious with too much fastidious attention to detail accompanied by page long footnotes and at other turns annoying when the excessive criticism seemed over the top.

The most entertaing bits came during the passages when the author was quoting other writers descriptions of events involving Whillans, which made the reader want more of the same. In those passages, Whillans' personality rang through louder than any other parts of the book.

Despite the criticisms above, this book is extremely well researched and Perrin is a great writer. If you want to know more about Whillans and the rock and ice or be reminded of their great achievements then read it. However, for intellectual climbing snobs I don't recommend it.

Now, an anthology of writing about Whillans by the sources quoted in this book that might be worth reading.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 30 Oct 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Brilliant book. Although I am biased as it is my uncle. But fascinating finding out about his other life I knew nothing of. The warts and all as described by my auntie which we never knew or heard of.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars eye-opening., 9 Oct 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Villain: The Life of Don Whillans (Paperback)
Just read this and struggled to put it down. Jim perrin made this into a labour of love and I can see why. You read the book admiring whillians fabulous ability, but at the same time wincing at his indiscretions. I'm no climber, although I love fell walking and mountain biking, but I could see how inspirational this book could be to youngsters starting out on climbing careers. You just wish whillians could have moderated his behaviour and looked after himself and then he'd surely still be with us today and rightly be as celebrated as his contempories Brown, Bonnington, Halston, Scott etc. I know other reviewers found the footnotes annoying, but I didn't, you get used to them and they themselve often contain vital bits of subplot infomation. Overall a fascinating and ultimately quite sad tribute to a talent that should be a household name.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive story, 8 Aug 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Villain: The Life of Don Whillans (Paperback)
A great read if you are into climbing legends. Thoroughly researched, well written, revealing, full of evocative asides and personal notes. Perrin clearly understand the contexts of Don Whillans life; from post-war working-class roots, through gritstone climbing, to mountaineering, with some drinking and personality issues thrown in. You get it all, from climbing the highest peaks down to washing the dirty underwear!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read, 18 Dec 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Villain: The Life of Don Whillans (Paperback)
Read while on holiday and thoroughly enjoyed the book which was honest and gave a good insight into one of our greatest climbers.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 4 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

The Villain: The Life of Don Whillans
The Villain: The Life of Don Whillans by Jim Perrin (Paperback - 6 April 2006)
£7.99
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews