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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well-written biography of a complex character, 29 Aug. 2014
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John Curry's name is one that many people (of a certain age) will remember - and think 'Whatever happened to him?' as he seemed to quickly disappear from our consciousness after his great triumph at the 1976 Olympics when he became headline news in every paper. He is remembered for changing the style of international figure skating, and had a lasting impact on the well known names that followed - Robin Cousins, Torville & Dean, etc.

This book is clearly a well-researched biography which, due to the secretive nature of the subject, relied greatly on piecing together cohesively all the information from detailed interviews with family, friends and skating opponents who knew him - no mean feat. All credit to the author, as the result is a seamless, and seemingly balanced biography which makes for fascinating and fairly compulsive reading. Such a pity that there is so little documented information from the subject himself - but he apparently didn't keep anything, preferring to guard his privacy (his prerogative, after all). However his letters to his friends do shed some extra light on his character.

You won't necessarily like the man later in life as his hard demands on his company of skaters, and apparent avoidance of facing up to business realities, get him into all sorts of trouble, but there is a picture of someone single-minded and driven, who is always striving for perfection in himself and others. You only have to look at the You-tube videos from those days to see the results (and you should). I can only think that he must have had considerable charm to sustain the loyalty of most of his friends and associates throughout his life. There are also tantalising glimpses of his sexual liaisons to fill out that essential side of his character.

All in all, a fascinating read about a troubled, and at times difficult, man.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We shall never see his like again...., 1 Aug. 2014
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This review is from: Alone: The Triumph and Tragedy of John Curry (Hardcover)
I recommend this book highly - I read it in one sitting, and could not put it down until I had finished it. Bill Jones has written a brilliant, insightful, fascinating book about one of the most important and gifted artists of all time - John Curry, tortured, lonely, brave and driven by an unrequited search for perfection. John took ice into a new dimension, created an unforgettable troupe of inspiring performers, bullying and nurturing them in equal measure. He awakened in them an artistic spirit that would carry them into New York's Metropolitan Opera House - a spirit which would survive even when John himself had long since left the stage.

This book is particularly meaningful to me, because I helped to launch The John Curry Skating Company, and with my partner, David Spungen, spent several years trying desperately to establish it. In the end we lost the battle, but the world had seen skating's brightest star shining in a universe that only he could create. Bill Jones has written a beautifully crafted book, well balanced, candid and moving. He has painted an extraordinary portrait of a highly complex man, while at the same time managing to set his story in the context of a world which was just awakening to the ravages of AIDS. Bravo!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quality book - read it read it read it, 31 July 2014
This review is from: Alone: The Triumph and Tragedy of John Curry (Hardcover)
Top book, absolute must read.

You can feel the tension screwing upwards, tighter and tighter towards the end as it hurtles towards the inevitable fall. Completely gripping.

You've got to have a friend/relative read it too because you'll be so desperate to talk about him afterwards.

Tom Daly? Ian Thorpe? Michael Sam? All have received such glowing press recently for being openly gay world-class athletes, but this guy did it 30 years ago, and with HIV!

A bit of a great British underdog story with John blighted by the classic Shakespearean fatal character flaw.

Can't remember the name but Bill Jones has written another good book about a runner called John Tarrant - worth checking out if you enjoy this.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Man who turned skating into art, 14 Nov. 2014
By 
Daisy Goodwin (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Alone: The Triumph and Tragedy of John Curry (Hardcover)
When John Curry was seven years old he told his mother he wanted to take ballet lessons. She agreed but his father, a man who had escaped from a POW camp in World War II, did not. In 1950’s Birmingham, ballet was not an acceptable pastime for a factory owner’s son,
so the young Curry took up skating, which his father considered a sport. Curry’s father committed suicide when the future Olympic champion was sixteen, but as Bill Jones’s fascinating biography of Curry, ‘Alone,” makes clear: Curry senior’s unthinking prejudice was the crucial moment in his son’s life. Curry was a skater who wanted to dance, not like so many skaters, an athlete who had learned how to be graceful – and it was his desire to be the Nureyev of the ice that was both his strength and ultimately his undoing.

Figure skating when Curry was growing up was resolutely athletic. In order to give some objective rigour to the judging, the lion’s share of the marks went to the compulsory figures – hieroglyphs carved out in ice that judges would decipher. Curry was never a big jumper like the Eastern bloc skaters, he just wanted to dance using his whole body. His coaches told him to stop waving his arms around ‘ like a girl, it was unmanly.’ As he said later, “ they just wanted to turn me into a jumping robot.” There was an unspoken homophobic agenda at work, the British Skating Association favoured athletic and obviously heterosexual skaters like the British champion Haig Oundijan, Curry’s ‘effeminacy’ was not a desirable image for the sport. Curry’s grace and musicality were not appreciated by the skating establishment, as he put it, “ I felt like I spent the whole year learning a poem only to recite it to deaf people.”

But Curry persevered and when he found a coach in x Fassi who was only interested in creating winners effeminate or not, he began his remarkable winning streak In 1976, at the relatively elderly age of 26 he won the European and World Championships and the gold at the Innsbruck Olympics all in the space of three months. Curry’s victory was made possible by the shift in the marking which put the long creative programme at 50% of the marks and the courage of one Czech judge who defied the bloc voting habits of his Iron Curtain colleagues to give Curry the top score ( when he returned home he was punished for his lack of loyalty).

Curry, who was the first Briton to win Olympic Gold at the Winter Olympics in decades, became world famous overnight. Remarkably for a gay athlete in the 70’s ( think of Ian Thorpe recent revelation) he did not obscure his sexuality. In an interview which came out the day after his triumph, he talked about being gay. Curry claimed later that he was speaking off the record, but whatever the intention he dealt with the aftermath with enormous courage giving a press conference where he said, “ I don’t think I lack virility and what other people think of me doesn’t matter,” snapping at one reporter, “ do you think what I did yesterday wasn’t’ athletic?” Trouncing the homophobia of the press was his second great triumph.

His career post Olympics was all about his quest to make skating an art form. He rejected the lucrative, sequin studded world of Holiday on Ice, to create his own company dedicated to creating art not panto on skates. What followed was a combination of singleminded artistry which had Curry and his troupe performing at the Royal Albert Hall and the Met in New York to rapturous acclaim and miserable farce as his company skated on half frozen ice rinks in Hawaii and Dubai. Curry was a brilliant choreographer and performer but he had no concept of money and was cruel to his dancers. He wanted all the women to be ballerina thin, and he once snatched a girl’s lunch tray and threw it across the cafeteria because the food was too fattening. Worse still Curry fell in love with one of his male skaters and sacked him when he would no longer sleep with him. The groundbreaking dance company ended in bankruptcy and Curry tried to make a new career as an actor – performing in Brigadoon and even as Buttons in panto.

Jones’s book is admirably even handed in its treatment of Curry the skating genius and Curry the deeply troubled man. Although he had relationships with many men ( Julian Pettifer and Alan Bates among them) Curry never found a serious partner. He spent much of his adult life in New York enjoying the S and M and leather bars of the West village. The fastidious artist who wanted to be the Balanchine of the ice, liked to lose himself in rough sex. One of his friends the choreographer Gillian Lynne said that , “ His promiscuity didn’t go with the taste of the man, I never understood it.”

In 198? Curry discovered that he was HIV positive. Many of his Fire Island friends were already dead or dying. He spent the last five years of his life trying to ignite his acting career while time knowing that he was under a death sentence. When he developed full blown Aids he came back to England and told his long suffering and much neglected mother that he was ill and she had to look after him. To raise some money for his mother he sold his story to the Mail on Sunday, admitting that he was dying of AIDS . At a time when gay celebrities like Freddie Mercury and Nureyev did everything to conceal the fact that they had AIDS, Curry’s interview showed courage, “ I am talking about this because I think it demystifies it… I don’t want other people to be frightened like I was, after all no one is immune.”

“Alone” is more than a sports biography, despite the occasionally florid prose it is a timely reminder of the fine boundary between sport and art and the courage it took, and still takes, to be a gay athlete.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a story - and what a storyteller!, 2 Aug. 2014
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This review is from: Alone: The Triumph and Tragedy of John Curry (Hardcover)
Would have read this at one sitting but I had to share it with my other half - then we went on YouTube and watched and watched and watched.

I knew that John Curry had won the Olympics. I didn't know that he then went on to create some of the most hauntingly beautiful art that the world will ever see - but at such a cost.

This is a gripping story told by a master storyteller - read it!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant as an innovative ice dance choreographer, 10 Aug. 2014
A gripping page turner of a book about a haunted and haunting genius. Brilliant as an innovative ice dance choreographer, he was not an easy man to work with, and a hopeless businessman. But his bravery in all aspects of his tortured life is inspirational. Bill Jones has written a book to keep you up all night till the very last page. Read it, read it, read it and then watch YouTube.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MASTERFUL WRITING / DIFFICULT SUBJECT, 19 Jan. 2015
This review is from: Alone: The Triumph and Tragedy of John Curry (Hardcover)
If nothing else John Curry was a complex miasma of a man. John Curry the skater and John Curry the man seem not to be one and the same. His short turbulent life has been vividly exposed in this excellent biography. Bill Jones has captured the man with every nuance of his personality and put it in black and white.

A genius with a dark side Curry is transcended on to the page in a meticulously researched biography with a straightforward text that is sympathetic but not maudlin.

Two passages especially exemplify John Curry, the artist and the man:
"Pioneering art often transcends understanding." (Pg. 138)
".....an attention seeker who craved privacy." (Pg.142)

I had never heard of John Curry before and I am not a fan of ice skating but this bio led me to seek out as many videos as I could find on YouTube of John Curry and I can only say that the magic he wielded on ice was the kind of magic one only ever sees once in a lifetime.

Bill Jones has masterfully brought this remarkable man to life on the page.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If only he'd been able to get on with people, 10 Nov. 2014
By 
Susan Duncan "Bat" (Edinburgh Scotland) - See all my reviews
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John Curry is probably not a name anyone under 30 will recognise unless they make a habit of viewing past winter olympics on youtube. Yet in 1976 John Curry was a hero. He stuck to his belief that ice skating should be more than just a series of athletic jumps and spins with music as a background, and produced a programme that was not only techically challenging for its day, but perfectly reflected the music he had chosen. For 5 minutes sport became art.
Off the ice he was equally innovative. He came out (something people don't have to do these days) and faced down a media that was both puzzled and homophobic. This biography best illustrates this with the events at the BBC dinner after Curry had won BBC sports personality of the year. The comedian making the after dinner speech cracked a joke about them having a "fairy for the top of the tree" with Christmas approaching.

Curry was a complex man. Difficult to know, he had a taste for rough sex and never enjoyed a stable long term relationship. At the same time he was ambitious and fickle when dealing with bussiness partners, and those many people(often older women like his mother, and American muse Nancy Streeter) who supported and loved him.

This book captures a time in sporting history when the UK thought winning one summer olympic gold medal was reason for national rejoicing let alone a winter one. Describes the wonderful ice ballet's Curry created but could never make money from, and finally his decline and premature death from aids.

A fantastic biography for those of us who cheered Curry to this three great triumps in 1976
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Congratulations to Bill Jones for an excellent Biography!, 6 Dec. 2014
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This review is from: Alone: The Triumph and Tragedy of John Curry (Hardcover)
After just finishing the book I can honestly say it is very truthful and based on fact and is beautifully written even though very sad in parts also explained a lot about his life which was never earlier understood. John Curry was a genius on the ice and is inimitable, A unique artist as well as an Olympic Gold Medalist. There have not been more than 2 male skaters winning an Olympic Gold medal, as far as I can see in History.
I hope that this book wins an award as Bill put 3 years of his life into writing it with heart and soul.
My only criticism was that there were not more photos of John and of his company.
Lorna Brown
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gold medal for Bill Jones!, 21 Aug. 2014
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A fascinating biography of someone who touched the lives of so many....Bill Jones tells the incredible story of what happened next...a life of disappointment and pain juxtaposed with artistic triumphs which reduced audiences to tears.The detail of Curry's life are explored by the author and he handles the material wonderfully....every detail is backed by first hand testimony from friend and foe alike.In the hands of many writers this could be dull but his sympathy with Curry and his command of the material makes this a riveting read. Bill Jones has surpassed his first book ( Ghost Runner)and deserves every success. Read this book you will be moved, inspired and its resonances in 21st century sport will make you think.
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Alone: The Triumph and Tragedy of John Curry
Alone: The Triumph and Tragedy of John Curry by Bill Jones (Hardcover - 31 July 2014)
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