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on 31 July 2009
This biography is a sympathetic account of the fastest bowler the world has ever seen - allowing the reader to understand him fully in a way that previous published works have failed to do - and giving an insight into the man and cricketer that is wonderful to behold. It tells of the proud man who always put his family first and of the proud cricketer who always gave of his best - even in difficult circumstances. It corrects that much believed myth that Larwood was just a tool under Jardine's control and replaces it with the fact that in reality, Larwood stood shoulder to shoulder with his 'Skipper' when it came to believing in and delivering 'Bodyline'. Harold Larwood paid as high a price as DRJ for his involvement in the 1932/33 Ashes series and yet never sought to blame his captain - always holding Douglas Jardine in the highest regard both as a man and as a cricketer. I warmly recommend this book to anyone interested in cricket or history or both but also to those wishing to get a more realistic account of 'Bodyline' from its principle weapon. It is a book that once picked up the reader will find it hard to put down.
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on 26 August 2009
A decent biography of one the greats of English cricket is long overdue and Hamilton does Harold Larwood proud. Packed with fascinating and often very funny anecdotes, Hamilton tells the story of Larwood's rise from the mines of Nottingham to become the fastest, most devastating and most feared bowler in the world. Every aspect of Larwood's career from the early days at Notts through to the England period, the Bodyline tour and aterwards is handled with immense care and detail. Yes, it's an athorised biography, so it's kind to Larwood. But Hamilton gives plenty of insight into this prickly, proud and stubborn character. Brilliant on his relationships with Voce, Jardine, Carr, the MCC and, of course, Bradman and the appalling way the events unfolded in the aftermath of the Bodyline crisis. Extraordinary how welcoming and kind the Australians were to him when he finally emigrated there.
Harold Larwood is a very touching, warm and gripping read, though Hamilton could have done with a sterner editor because it's a tad over-written in places. But don't let that stop you buying and enjoying this marvellous biography of a great gentleman and giant of cricket.
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on 26 January 2010
How to stop Bradman. The story of 'Bodyline' is cricket's most written-about and controversial subject, with Harold Larwood, the professional Nottinghamshire fast bowler and ex-miner, under the single-minded captaincy of amateur Douglas Jardine (Winchester and Oxford), at the centre of the story. Bradman was stopped, the series was won decisively, but the furore it caused threatened the Empire.

'Larwood' tells Larwood's story from his point of view, and is a worthy addition to the 'Bodyline' library. The reader is transported back to the 1920s and '30s with both period and personal detail, and is forcibly reminded about how tough life was, and how different were the lives and responsibilities of professionals and amateurs. The generous use of photographs enhances this. I particularly enjoyed the description of his victorious return to Nottingham after the tour. The end of his career, the disillusionment and his emigration to Australia after the war are all interestingly told. Duncan Hamilton has done a great job in giving voice to 'Lol' and his family, and it is a fair and balanced and enticingly written account.

My only reservations are that Larwood's first tour to Australia (1928/9), with a thumping series win for England, is barely mentioned. More significantly, Gubby Allen's influence in the placation of Australia post-Bodyline, and the ending of Jardine's and Larwood's careers, is not examined. Indeed, Bradman and Allen became the most powerful men in cricket until the mid 1960's. But that's another story...
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on 6 October 2009
This is an outstanding book - the best cricket book I have read in years. The story of the '32-33 series has been told many times but this book is more about the man.

The latter parts of the book, about his post cricket life, are particularly fascinating but also very sad. I don't mind admitting I had more than one lump in my throat as I got near the end. This MUST be Wisden's cricket book of the year for 2010 - if not sports book of the year period. This book exceeds Hamilton's previous biography of Brian Clough by far in my view (which was also very good).
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on 13 July 2012
Like most cricket fans, I knew all about the Bodyline series and its affect on the game thereafter, but this book goes beyond that, taking you on a beautiful journey following the man most often associated with the events of the 1932/33 Ashes series, not just his cricketing career, but his life before and long after.

Opinion is still divided as to Douglas Jardine's real intentions almost 80 years ago, but having read this book, you'd be hard pressed to find a bad word to say about Harold Larwood, either as an outstanding cricketer or true gentleman.

I don't mind admitting that there were tears in my eyes at several points in the book - it is a very touching account of one man's life, the values he held and the impact he had on the game.

Highly recommended - read it and be proud to be English.
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on 1 May 2010
First, I must explain that this book was given to me as a present - I had never previously heard of the author, and my knowledge of Harold Larwood was limited to what I had read of the Bodyline series - accounts in which he comes across as either an outright villain or a naïve working-class professional who was manipulated by his gentleman-amateur captain Jardine.

This book, the first serious biography of Larwood, is a successful and highly readable rehabilitation of the reputation of one of the legends of English cricket. Hamilton paints Larwood as a tough professional who went from the mines of rural Nottinghamshire to being the most effective and dangerous fast bowler in a cricketing era that was dominated by the batsmen.

Hamilton writes with a real insight into not only Larwood but the world of late 1920s and early 30s cricket in which he lived and bowled, shedding light onto supporting characters such as his Notts and England team-mates (especially his new-ball partner and best friend Bill Voce), the Australians (the portrayal of Donald Bradman here is refreshingly less rose-tinted than is usual in cricketing history books) and the game's administrators (if there is a villain of this piece, it's the MCC in general and England tour manager and self-serving journalist P.F. Warner in particular). Although it was clearly the high water-mark of his career, the Bodyline series of 1932-33 is treated not as a stand-alone event but is placed in the context of the rest of Larwood's career.

At centre-stage, though, is Larwood himself - a hard, stubborn character who emerges from this book not as Jardine's pawn but as a man who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with his `skipper' when it came to the Bodyline series, and steadfastly refused to apologise afterwards when the MCC dropped its support for Jardine and demanded an apology. Despite this and a potentially career-threatening injury, he continued to bowl for Notts, albeit never as effectively as he had.

Hamilton also emphasises Larwood's life after cricket, from running a sweet-shop in Blackpool at a time when sweets were rationed (who, one wonders, advised him that this was a good idea?) to his emigration to Australia and his eventual rehabilitation - as a guest of honour at the 1977 Centenary Test and his finally being awarded the MBE.

This is truly the finest sporting biography that I have ever read. If you are even slightly interested in cricket, then I must recommend that you read this book without delay.
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on 6 September 2016
very good. well written. ideal for anyone with a long standing or passing interest in cricket and the bodyline. Hamilton's writing style is very relaxed and informative without being dull and over reliant on the headlines and statistics that sometimes overwhelm some publications about the game. Would happily recommend.
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on 29 December 2016
Just when you though that nothing more could be written or found out about Larwood's life along comes an author about whom nobody (until now) knew much about and wrote this stunning book. Hamilton got access to all manner of personal material and it is beautifully written and laid out. there are so many tales, many of which are humorous and it will amuse and inform on every page. The bit about Larwood going to the gentleman's club in London with his captain Jardine to discuss tactics is quite informative and touching. This sold by word of mouth and no wonder is own an award or tow - absolutely fantastic.
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on 3 November 2009
I don't know what it is about the bodyline era which fascinates me. Larwood and Jardine didn't invent hard ruthless competitive cricket. They didn't invent bodyline. They may have been the first to use film to analyse the weakness of an opposing batsman. Perhaps, as a package, they invented modern fast bowling. What they did is mild compared to what is done today. OK, OK, today's batsman is infinitely protected when compare with the batsmen of the 30s. perhaps some of the modern "greats" would not fare as well if they wore the pads, box and batting gloves of yesteryear. The book constantly makes sensible comparisons with how this saga might have played out in the modern era as opposed to how it actually played out. The book makes powerful connections with the divide between professionals such as Larwood with the amateurs such as Jardine, Allen et al. I might not have bought the book had i spotted that it was the "authorised" biography. It is none the worse for that. This is easily the best sports book I have read for some years.
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on 22 February 2010
I first recall hearing the name Larwood when I was about six years of age in 1962 when my cricket mad father would call on him to inspire the England attack in test matches. As Larwood was clearly a hero of my Dads, naturally he became of great interest to myself and I read everything I could on Bodyline. Duncan Hamilton's book is by far the most insightful and detailed account of all aspects of Larwood's life that I have read. As soon as I picked up this biography I was hooked. Written with the authority of intensive research it gives an insight into a by-gone age. Larwood would have greatly benefitted in today's game with it's sports psychologists, physio's and sponsorship. The descriptions of the damage caused to his body by the bone hard pitches and inadequate kit in Australia are stunning to a modern day reader. The most revealling thing was the extent of the deep resentment of Larwood by the great Aussie hero Sir Donald Bradman.
Larwood remains an enigma/legend/immensely talented athlete to me. Why did his treatment by the MCC and English cricket establishment hurt him so, so deeply. Why did his family (who were incredibly supportive of Harold) allow him to at times seemingly wallow in self-pity? Why did he not turn the negative into positive? Why did he not go into coaching/management?
The book is superb on the details/antics of dressing rooms. I don't feel guilty any more about hiding cigarettes and matches for half time when I played rugby.
I also enjoyed the descriptions of the profound, caring relationships that Larwood developed with the professional and amateur sportsmen he toiled alongside.
Duncan Hamilton has created a blueprint on how to write an entertaining, informative and masterful sporting biography.
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