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I've never read a biography, not until this one. I've always devoured novels, but never biographies/autobiographies.
So what made me read this one?
I've always been a huge fan of Hammond. I loved him in Top Gear, the banter with the other presenters, the way he good naturedly let Jeremy torment him with all manner of short jokes. He was cute, friendly and lovable. I was so excited when he started branching out and presenting other shows, such as Braniac: Science Abuse.
Then one day my partner Phil says Hammond has crashed his jet car. I don't know the man, never even met him, but my stomach churned. Bombarding Phil with questions, is he hurt?, how bad is it? is he ok?. No-one knew, it turns out not even his family the extent of his injuries, so it was a waiting game for everyone.
I remember wondering if Hammond would come through this, if we would ever see him on tv again, would he be the same person?
The first television appearance was on Jonathan Ross, and I tuned in eagerly, to see if the Hamster we all loved was still there. It seemed yes he was, apart from a new love for celery, and an uncanny ability to recall everyone's phone number! What relief. During this time we had been watching the media storm against the BBC and more specifically Top Gear, claims it was dangerous, it had gone too far, it should be taken off the air.
Thankfully that didn't happen.
I wanted to read this book, as a fan, and also because I had found Hammonds interview on Ross fascinating.
Being stingy however, I waited until I could pick it up at two books for £7 in the supermarket! (In all fairness, it's only now Mia's reaching one that I get chance to read anyway!).
To be honest, I didn't expect a talented writer when I thought of Hammond, which in hindsight, was silly, he is a journalist after all. I was shocked by the unique and direct writing style he used. Somehow, there was utter honesty, without vanity coming through the pages.
The book starts with Richard taking us through his early childhood, he was a daredevil show off as a child. He dealt with teasing about his short weedy stature bu teasing himself first. He got peoples attention by performing home made stunts and tricks, with an amazing (to me) lack of fear for his own safety. He talks about how proud he was when he cut his hand so he see bone (boys!). He tells us how he was happy to lie in the cold mud for hours tinkering with his bike, and later cars with a cheap and insufficient tool kit.
The book also tells us about his family, who Hammond abviously not just loves, but respects greatly.
Then he tells us how he made it through the early years of his career, buying dodgy old cars from his measly radio station paypackets. How he spent all his free time just making sure they could manage the trip back and fore to work.
How he met Mindy in one of his rare office jobs, how he was besotted by her, and how his mate had to ask her out for him like he was fourteen. How after a handful of dates he had fallen in love with her and knew this was it.
Then he talks through auditioning for Top Gear, and on to the crash.
The background is only a few chapters, but somehow he fills it with snippets of information that seem trivial in some cases, but which provide you with a deep insight into his persona. I felt I had such an understanding of how his mind worked, and what led him to take on such death defying acts.
The day of the crash, Hammond talks in great clarity about the events leading up to the incident.
After the crash, Mindy takes over for a few chapters, explaining how frightened she was, but how she had to hold herself together, for Richard, for their girls (two young daughters), and so she could deal with Richards career, the press attention, and keep in touch with their families.
I cannot even imagine how difficult the few weeks after the crash were for Mindy. She was so heroic in the way she cared only about Richard and her girls, never leaving herself a moment to break down.
Richard and Mindy then share the writing from a few weeks after the crash to the end of the book, each giving a perspective on Richard's recovery. This wasn't confusing, as you may think, the sections were clearly separate, with different fonts for each, so you could switch back and forth quite easily.
I was hooked on this book, and finished it in a few hours. It must have been extremely difficult for both Richard and Mindy to write, and they have both done themselves justice with this one. The honesty, the raw emotion, the complete openess flows out of this book, connecting the reader in such a powerful way.
I started to read this book, thinking of Hammond as a lovable, funny, brave bloke off a car show.
Now I think of him as an amazing, complicated, intelligent man, with a devoted wife who loves him so much.
I can't recommend this book enough. I think it would be worth a read even you're not a fan. It's an amazing story in it's own right, and told brilliantly by both parties.
Widely available, though I'd recommend supermarkets where you should be able to get it for between £3.50 and £4.00.
Sounds like a good book. And I agre only boys wqould be ahppy about cutting themselves to the bone! I love this guy, I didn;t think his book would be much good though. But I think you have convinced me otherwise so I might try it. x
kezziefaerie 06.10.2008 14:56
great review. i love autobiographies so might look out for his