The speedway book market is going to be a crowded place this summer with Ivan Mauger, Leigh Adams and Michael Lee all the subject of new biographies. Also competing for our hard earned pennies is the now annual offering from Jeff Scott from Methanol Press.
This year he's opted for the sci-fi inspired "Shale Trek" as the title of his work, this time covering his adventures from the Isle of Wight to Edinburgh throughout the 2009 season.
Those of you familiar with his earlier works will find this is very much along the same lines, a mixture of commentary, opinion and anecdote. Each of the 41 chapters is a self-contained analysis of what he's seen and heard at a particular meeting. As always, the humour of the terraces dominates as throwaway witty asides are captured forever in book form - probably not always to the delight of those that made them.
There are also thousands of interesting insights into the sport throughout, often coming from those on the periphery of the club's staff who are granted the odd peak behind the curtain and can't wait to pass on what they've seen. For some reason those that man the track shops around the country seem to be particularly prone to this.
Promoters are also quoted at length and Sheffield promoter Neil Machin comes across as particularly sensible in his comments, citing the ludicrous cost of machinery as the sport's biggest problem and comparing and contrasting what's available for similar wedge from larger manufacturers. His suggestion of paying riders by the pass, rather than the point, is another interesting idea, though one suspects we'd end up with something akin to professional wrestling with passes being manufactured on every bend.
Gordon Pairman (Glasgow and Belle Vue) is another promoter who comes across very well in the book, his observation that young speedway riders need "small head and big balls" while the older ones need the reverse is a valid and fun observation.
Those trusted to speak publicly at speedway meetings - announcers, presenters and any other nose the microphone is thrust under - are a regular target of Scott's and he positively delights in recounting many of these public utterances. Often this is just to highlight the absurdity of their pronouncements but their comments are also used to move along the story of a particular meeting, in much the same way as they do at the track. He does of course have his favourite presenters and some escape more lightly than others. The criticism of Mike Bennett's approach and style now verging on uncomfortable reading, though Dave Hoggart makes a spirited defence of Mike elsewhere in the book that does redress the balance to some degree.
Scott himself has always attracted a degree of criticism, something that's touched on in a conversation he has with veteran promoter Ian Thomas and his wife Dot.
[Ian] "Next year call your book something I can understand!"
[Jeff] "Methanol and Mayhem."
[Dot Thomas] "That's good."
[Ian] "Mayhem and Worse."
[Jeff] "I can't call it that, some promoters don't like what I write anyway."
[Dot] "Only 'cause they're trying to put words in your mouth."
[Ian] "Call it what you want - write what you like!"
It's clear from the contents of this book that Jeff has taken that sage advice on board.
If you've already read one of Jeff Scott's books then you'll already have a good idea of whether you'll like Shale Trek. If you haven't, then you should, and you might as well start with this one.
This book is available from www.methanolpress.com
This article was first published on 10th June 2010
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