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More tall tales from the short bloke ...,
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This review is from: Or Is That Just Me? (Hardcover)
Richard Hammond confronts his scariest challenge, yet - his fortieth birthday! - and a mid-life crisis of apocalyptic proportions is the unavoidable theme in this highly entertaining book. Hammond's minutely observed, and occasionally melancholic style may surprise those accustomed to the chirpy chappie on TV -a character he himself seems to regard with wry detachment- but it makes him far and away the most unexpected writer of the "Top Gear" triumvirate.
Not that this book isn't funny - His horse riding adventures are genuinely hilarious, as is a disastrous drinking session on board HMS Illustrious. Even a harrowing succession of encounters with the medical profession is recounted with the gleeful relish of a man who regrets having no decent scars to show off in the pub.
It is, however counterbalanced with darker moments - sombre reflections on childhood and adult bullying, and succinct, throwaway sentences that remind us that, for all his determination to live his surreally colourful life to the fullest, he continues to live with the lingering aftershock of brain injury.
We are invited, with a rather lovely set of stickers, to `Poke fun at the short bloke off "Top Gear"', but he lands constant pre-emptive strikes on himself, deflating his own impatience, paranoia and vanity at every twist and turn. Whilst a certain self-defensiveness is clearly at work, the result is delightfully self-knowing, revealing a flawed but genuinely likeable human being beneath the hyperactive TV persona.
The book has its faults. Some chapters end abruptly, without proper resolution, or explanation. There are also weird inconsistencies in the text. On page 71, for example, he describes wandering across a landing in pyjamas that, on page 57, we are clearly informed that he doesn't possess. Now whilst the fact that the Hamster may or may not own a pair of jammies is not a matter of overriding magnitude in the grand scheme of things, it does cast some doubt on the innate veracity of what we are reading.
In the final analysis, since he cheerfully confesses to sometimes not letting the truth get in the way of a good story, maybe we should simply accept it at that. These are good stories, and we can only hope that Richard Hammond ploughs manfully on through his terrifying middle years to deliver plenty more of them. With no obvious sign of a follow-up on the horizon, however, we may be in for a wait.