Showered in Shale

“It’s all here, in almost soap opera style proportions… this is British Speedway stripped bare, this is how it really is and some of it isn’t pretty…"

By Jeff Scott: One man’s circuitous journey throughout the country in pursuit of a minor obsession – British Speedway

• Coverage of 30 British League tracks
• Quirky stories galore, the odd rant and captivating photos
• Plus exclusive interviews with: promoters, managers, riders, obsessive collectors, a vicar, photographers, referees, start girls &, most importantly, fans & aficionados of speedway!
• 508 pages, 409 photographs!
• Design and layout: Rachael Adams
• Cover photography: Julie Martin
A donation will be made to the Speedway Riders Benevolent Fund for every copy of Showered in Shale sold.

‘Likely to end up as one of the best speedway books I’ve ever read!’

The legendary sports journalist, Frank Keating, wrote in The Guardian:

“At the end of the month, William Hill announces the shortlist for its sports book of 2006. If the author Jeff Scott’s impulsively oddball doorstop is not already in pole position, then it jolly well should be. Showered in Shale(Methanol Press, £20) is a strikingly hectic labour of love, an urban odyssey, a bucking, breathless round-Britain whizz in pursuit of his obsession. To log this dense but irresistible social documentary, last season Scott travelled more than 10,000 miles to watch 1,100 races at speedway’s 30-odd tracks. From Glasgow to the Isle of Wight, Newport to Sittingbourne, Workington to Poole; he talked, obviously, to riders and fans, but also to promoters, programme-sellers and the bloke running the hot-dog stand – the last three often one and the same.

I have never been to a meeting, but I’ve got the picture all right after this captivatingly cranky revelation into one of the most cloistered, concealed and dimly lit recesses of Britain’s sporting culture.”
Frank Keating, Tuesday October 3, 2006, The Guardian

Press Quotes

“It’s all here, in almost soap opera style proportions… this is British Speedway stripped bare, this is how it really is and some of it isn’t pretty…. many years into the future, historians will gladly hold this book to their bosom for its insight….. what the author has achieved – and it will be interesting to see how many people really take this on board – is that he’s provided a book that will stand-up as a fly on the wall type narrative of where and what our sport really is in the early millennium. ….Showered in Shale is a quirky book, it’s different and off-the-wall… it should find its way onto any true speedway fan’s book shelf.”
Brian Burford, Speedway Star

“What I regard as one of the most fascinating books I have come across since I saw my first speedway meeting at New Cross in 1946. It doesn’t need fact files, historical facts and biographies to make it buzz.”
John Hyam, South London Press

“Jeff has a nice turn of phrase, doesn’t pull his punches and isn’t scared to offer critical observations when he feels the need!… a new style of speedway read”
Dick Barrie, ‘Straight Talking’ in Berwick Programme

“A superb new book chronicling speedway across the length and breadth of Britain… Dozens of quirky stories make the book as enjoyable for non-fans as those likely to be found near the third bend of any track… after reading Scott’s chronicle, Wildcats fans will be hoping even more speedway in Weymouth has another chapter to run”
Matt Pitman, Dorset Echo

“A fascinating book that holds up an illuminating mirror to both the sport and the community as a whole…Scott’s pithy turn of phrase helps him to capture accurately a whole raft of personalities – his description of Arena Essex promoter Ronnie Russell is simultaneously laugh out loud funny and hugely respectful… through it all – and this big format softback runs to 500-plus pages – Scott’s love of the sport and his fellow man shine out. Highly recommended.”
Tim Hamblin, Wolverhampton Express & Star

“A compelling journey that delves deep into the psyche of British speedway. Scott’s odyssey is a multi-faceted account of the state of the sport.”
Ben Findon, Daily Telegraph

“Speedway from a supporters view – a new slant after all the recent riders books – thoroughly enjoyed a humorous and interesting read. Recommended.”
Pat Bliss, long time Reading Racers promoter

“It really is a fascinating book and I hope fans don’t miss out on theopportunity to read not just about the tracks but also the characters behindthem.”
Chris Gay, SCB Official

“A refreshing change…Scott is not coming at the sport from an anorak-type perspective, but a far more open mind and he finds out plenty of information on the way”
Mike Bacon, East Anglian Daily Times

“I don’t know how the freak you did it!”
Dave Fairbrother of the Speedway Star

“A very worthy effort by this very candid author…supplemented by 409 interesting – if rather small – offbeat black and white photographs. Liberally laced with Scott’s dry humour and pithy observations, ‘Showered in Shale’ is a thoroughly absorbing travelogue that presents a whole new angle on the sport – from a fans perspective. Never afraid to ask a loaded question and attempt to get to the bottom of everything, Scott seeks out promoters, staff, supporters and a host of characters up and down Britain. The result is an entertaining read…it’s unique and refreshingly honest”
Tony McDonald, Editor, Backtrack

“Brill! Love it!”
Speedway Photographer extraordinaire, Julie ‘I quite like Lewis Bridger’ Martin

“A simply fascinating and unique observation of speedway in Great Britain in the early 21st century described with a unique and entertaining use of the English language… it is simply a pleasure to read.”
Mark Poulton, letter to the Speedway Star

“A completely refreshing book to read. Totally different from everything else out there. Everyone should read it, but especially every promoter, so that they can understand the complexity of our sport from a unique perspective – how the fans really see it!”
Graham Drury, Workington Promoter

“It is very different from any other speedway book, the nearest comparison I can make is ‘Fever Pitch’, Nick Hornby’s famous football book… I think it is likely to end up as one of the best speedway books I’ve ever read”
Arnie Gibbons, British Speedway Forum

“Readers will find plenty to reward them”
Brian Owen, Brighton Evening Argus

“A fascinating speedway travelogue”
Berwick Advertiser

“Better than the usual boring speedway book full of stats or races from long ago”
Trevor Geer, Co-Team Manager, Eastbourne Eagles

“If you have read any football books then you’ll appreciate the difference between the typical Keeganesque “I were as sick as a parrot…” type autobiography and the works of authors such as Hornby, Davies, McIlvenney and Garry Nelson who have taken football writing to a new level. Well this book does this for speedway, it’s thoughtful, intelligent, witty and interesting and takes the viewpoint of the people on the terraces rather than disappearing up its own bum the way too many of the books by riders, ex-riders and promoters have tendency to. Due to the way it’s written you can read it cover to cover or you can dip in and out”
Neil Dyson, Sheffield Speedway Fans forum

“Definitely a must-have for any speedway fan – it is an detailed and informative, but amusing and off-beat look at what goes on before the turnstiles open (and after).”
Neil Watson, ex-Peterborough Promoter, British Speedway Forum

“Some speedway books can leave you feeling quite cold and uninspired, but this one you can really relate to because a lot of what Jeff writes is what we all think as fans, naturally opinions can differ, but reading through this book is like chatting away to your mates on the terraces!!!!”
British Speedway Forum

“A very good read indeed and a very pleasant chap”
Ken Burnett, co-author ’75 Years of Eastbourne Speedway

“I loved the book, it reminded me of a Bill Bryson travel book, only with a speedway theme. I have not been in ” The Grove ” in Berwick since 1980 and it’s good to know that it seems to be exactly as I remember it.”
Danny Brotherton, Reader

“What I regard as one of the most fascinating books I have come across since I saw my first speedway meeting at New Cross in 1946. It doesn’t need fact files, historical facts and biographies to make it buzz.” 
John Hyam

Press Reviews

Berwick Bandits Website (now defunct)

Upon his last visit I received a copy of the book from Jeff and to be totally honest with you it is unlike any other speedway book I have read, it is a unique blend of watching speedway terraces through to the local characters met around the country. This is certainly not a look at the sport through the rose tinted spectacles that some would wish to believe exist, more a darkly humoured stab at what makes the sport tick. It hasn’t been written with an aim to keep anyone happy other than the author who’s opinions leave at times nothing to the imagination.

When I was asked to give the book a read and write what I thought the first thing that crossed the mind was I had better write something nice, the honest answer is I can’t knock it and I would recommend anyone to read ‘Showered in Shale‘. It makes no matter if you’ve been around the sport 5 mins or 50 years, this is certainly something like you have never read before and is an original take on the sport and it’s people.

You can tell the book has been written by a speedway fan for speedway fans!

The Voice: The Official Journal of the Friends of Speedway, Sue Jackson-Scott [no relation!]

I found this book difficult to enjoy properly on three counts; the terrible type face chosen, far too many footnotes (on average more than one per page) and Jeff’s rather pretentious and ponderous writing style. Speedway is a rather basic sport and comes across better when described in words of fewer syllables… This review may sound rather anti Showered in Shale, but this book is a “must have” for all speedway fans, if only to argue Jeff’s opinions of the tracks.

Twenty-twenty, Derek Barclay

Right, back from my hols and time to review the book I’ve lately been lugging (and it’s some lug!) across the beaches of Turkey. Memo to self: pick a lighter book next year and annoy the wife less!

But I have to say ‘Showered In Shale’ by Jeff Scott is worth the read even with a touch extra effort: as this is clearly NOT the typical Speedway book and is something close to my heart, a genuine attempt to look at our sport in the wider context of modern Britain. Some have compared it to Nick Hornby’s ground-breaking (and much mimicked) football classic, ‘Fever Pitch’.  I have to say, that only someone who’s never read ‘Fever Pitch’ (one of the finest books ever written, in my Gooner-biased opinion!) would make this comparison. Hornby’s book is a personal voyage from child to adult and very much in the first person. Scott’s Homeric quest is to visit every track in the UK in one season and observe (and he certainly is a comprehensive recorder of the minutiae of these observations); but the ‘heroes’ of the book and the medium through which the stories are told are third parties: the great, good and mostly spectacularly ordinary folk of British Speedway.

So what IS Scott aiming to do with his book?  His thesis is that, “Speedway is the complete opposite of the contrived experiences of today..: the mendacity that is the bane of modern life the false representations of reality”. Phew!  To Scott, “the sport represents one of the last true bastions of white working-class culture in the country.  Speedway says a lot about people, relationships and community”.  And perhaps most illuminatingly: “Speedway is an activity that still manages to connect people to a place; their passions to their lives; their dreams to their communities, but without the relentless consumerism and anonymity of so many aspects of contemporary life in our modern society”.

Yes – Scott isn’t going for an easy meander around Britain’s 30 or so tracks.  And to me, the book is at its strongest when the author ties in his specific observations of a Speedway club with their locale: the sense of place and how the Speedway community there retains a valuable identity which runs contrary to what he observes as the increasingly predictable sameness of the changing British social landscape: as he puts it, “these pseudo-aspirational zones that frame so much of the modern consumer experience”.

And Speedway exists (or he seems to argue, subsists..) in a working class environment which as Pete Toogood is quoted as saying, “lacks chimney pots”.  The struggle of the most taciturn of all his interviewees, the promoters to keep the sport alive in such conditions is a major theme.

As well as a sense of place, Speedway is an appeal to the senses.  And Scott at times magnificently captures this.  There’s sight (“a race simultaneously appears timeless, caught in the moment and somehow more significant in the overall scheme of things”); sound and smell (“they say your smell and hearing are the last senses to go when you die; in which case God must be a Speedway fan as these are the key senses you engage at every meeting.  There’s the throaty roar of the bikes. and the distinctive bouquet and aroma of the methanol”) and even taste: our sport is compared by someone as like “Marmite – loved by some but inspiring loathing and antipathy in many others”.

Hmm. Like the infamous, what is it, vegetable/beef (??!) extract spread, you may like Jeff Scott’s book or maybe not: you certainly shouldn’t ignore it!

World Speedway, Nick Ward, 7th January 2007

Jeff Scott, an avid and enthusiastic if not slightly eccentric speedway fan has written the book to fill those long winter evenings…[he] is a witty and articulate writer and in worldspeedway.com’s opinion the book itself is probably the best speedway book written to date.

Cleverly written, Scott not only tells his story of the season but many of the other fans, riders, managers and promoters that he meets along the way.

Speedway Plus Review, Russell Lanning

Speedway Plus

Speedway Star Review, 5th August 2006

Showered in Shale: contents

* Introduction
1 Reading v. Isle of Wight: High-flying Bird suffers a Bunyan
2 Poole v. Belle Vue: Clash of the Champions
3 Oxford v. Arena Essex: The latest ‘Final Farewell’
4 Edinburgh v. Stoke: A Coach trip to the Monarchs
5 Berwick v. Hull: Of Popes and Bandits
6 Glasgow v. Edinburgh: The Kindness of Strangers
7 Swindon v. Eastbourne: Rockin’ with the Robins
8 Under-21 British Championship Final, Rye House: In Pursuit of Dreams
9 Rye House v. Hull followed by the Elmside Raiders v. Newport GMB Union Mavericks: Of Fences and Start Gates
10 Wolverhampton v. Eastbourne: Crash, Bang, Wallop, What a Picture, What a Photograph
11 Arena Essex v. Eastbourne: An Evening with Ronnie Russell in Thurrock
12 Mildenhall v. Weymouth: Fun Frying in the Fens
13 Poole v. Eastbourne: The Love of a Lifetime
14 Peterborough v. Eastbourne: Showtime at the Showground
15 Reading v. Edinburgh: Down Memory Lane at Smallmead
16 Isle of Wight v. Edinburgh: Big Track on a Small Island
17 Weymouth v. Travis Perkins Select: Cool For (Wild)Cats
18 Sheffield v. Berwick: Professional Motorsport in the Heart of the City of Sheffield
19 Workington v. Stoke: A Night with The Comets
20 Stoke v. Workington: Pottering in the Potteries
21 Scunthorpe v. Hull Angels: Sunday in Scunny and the Marmite Question
22 Somerset v. Rye House: Off with the Rousing Rebels
23 Newport v. Kings Lynn & Newport v. Oxford: The Club that Tim Built
24 Exeter v. Edinburgh: A Trip to the Ring of Steel
25 Kings Lynn v. Newport: The Jewel of Norfolk
26 Ipswich v. Poole: Family Speedway in Suffolk
27 Eastbourne v. Wolves: Perspectives from Eagles and Wolves
28 Newcastle v. Somerset: Barney in Byker
29 Hull v. Workington: End of an Era in Hull
30 Sheffield v. Newcastle: Something Special in Sheffield
31 Coventry v. Arena: Of Bee’s, Memories and Referee’s
32 Belle Vue v. Eastbourne: Televising the Aces on their Dirt-Naked System Track
33 Oxford v. Eastbourne: The World According to Waggy
34 Buxton v. Scunthorpe: That Buxton Feeling
35 Peterborough v. Eastbourne – twice: The Pride of the Panthers
36 Reading v. Isle of Wight: The Penultimate Evening of the Racers
37 Isle of Wight v. Reading: The Magic of the Island
38 Sittingbourne v. Armadale & Sittingbourne v. Boston: Sport of the 500’s
39 Referee’s Practice day
40 Brighton Bonanza: Behind the Scenes
* Afterword
* Acknowledgements

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