Speedway Star Review

SHOWERED IN SHALE by Jeff Scott (Methanol Press, softback, 508 pages & 400 photos)

Available now at all good track shops, visit www.methanolpress.com or send £25 cheque to cover P&P made payable to “J Scott”, Methanol Press, 2 Tidy Street, Brighton BN1 4EL

70 meetings and 10,000 miles, this is not a statement from a rider’s schedule, but a fan’s journey through a speedway season. Showered in Shale is a ‘labour of love’ for its author Jeff Scott and this affection comes through its pages.

From the Isle of Wight to Glasgow, from Poole to Belle Vue and Ipswich to Newport, all of British Speedway is covered by Scott. This is as close to a printed documentary from a fan’s perspective that you’re going to get, and very interesting it is too.

Some clubs come over better than others – I’ll let you decide which ones they are. The good, the bad, and the ugly are on view here and its author has captured very well the family atmosphere of our sport – but as with all families, there are fallings out and failings. There is embarrassment, anger, excitement, humour and some dead-pan remarks that could have only come from speedway people.

There are many familiar names and faces inside, from the usual suspects in the pits to hardcore supporters who populate our terraces week in and week out. They’re all here, in almost soap opera style proportions.

Last year’s infamous Wolves v Eastbourne clash that resulted in some ugly scenes is covered with a lot of depth. The aftermath in particular gives this chapter a great feeling of involvement and examination and the book is worth the money alone to read an objective account of the whole sorry affair.

Another highlight is the Brighton Bonanza, where Scott provides a rare insight into this event that is both fascinating and very interesting. If you’ve never been to the Bonanza this should inspire you to taste this very unique speedway meeting.

Most of the riders from all leagues appear, but one in particular is a regular character in this book – Nicki Pedersen. Love him or hate him, it would be a duller place without him and Scott seems just as intrigued by the Dane as I am.

This is British Speedway stripped bare, this is how it really is and some of it isn’t pretty. Another thing that this book does, intentional or otherwise, is to illustrate to the reader in raw detail how our sport and it’s administration is struggling with the financial constraints that it finds itself in. Many years into the future, historians will gladly hold this book to their bosom for its insight.

Scott has done well to find something to say that is of interest at each venue he has visited, but I do think that it could have benefited from a bit more editing. Having said that, 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. This to me can be illustrated by one or two of the pictures, one especially from Oxford last year that proves that Sky’s intervention really does provide a showbiz gloss that’s only matched by our one day a year in Cardiff.

Incidentally, Cardiff is a notable absentee from his tour, but it’s one that really would have been at odds with the rest of the book. It would have stuck out like a cathedral in this busy and vibrant village we call speedway. But perhaps the one meeting that he did miss, and it really should have been included, was the emotionally charged End of Era meeting at Exeter. Its inclusion would have given this book a sure-fire historical anchor.

Showered in Shale is a quirky book, it’s different and off-the-wall. Each chapter begins with an extract from Sky and taken out of context they really do make you smile. One of my favourites is Jonathan Green’s comments: “Both teams really want to win here tonight,” – don’t they always?

As well as these titbits of entertainment we also get some extracts from SCB rule book which, isolated as they are, masks how a rule book has to state the obvious for purposes of avoiding misinterpretation such as: 9.2.1 (A Track) must be formed by two straights and two bends. Love it.

All in all this is a very entertaining book and brought many a smile to my face. For me, it wasn’t a page turner but a book that I could pick up with a coffee, read a chapter, put it down, and then come back to it again later. For that alone; Showered in Shale should find its way onto any true speedway fan’s book shelf.

Review: Brian Burford

Speedway can get into your blood. For Jeff Scott it happened in 1975 when Smallmead opened its doors. As a teenager he wanted to become a speedway rider. His mother told him it was too dangerous and expensive; heartbroken, he’s never even sat on a motorbike.

Instead he travelled the world, acquired and threw off his “Johnny Rotten of Academic Publishing” reputation, yet still he yearned for the thrill of the shale. The closest he has come to participating himself has been to watch the Racers, his adopted Eagles, or create execrable fantasy speedway teams.

Last year Jeff fulfilled two lifelong ambitions – he wrote a book and made it his mission to visit every speedway track in the country. He encountered many of the people that make the world of speedway so special and chronicled them and his travels in his book, faithfully employing his “more-is-more” style of writing.

When not deeply inhaling exhaust fumes at tracks around the country, he follows his beloved Sunderland AFC or works as book publicist.

For more on Jeff’s speedway pursuits, his continuing lessons in life and geography visit his Blog at www.methanolpress.com/blog.htm

One Response to Speedway Star Review

  1. Holly Hodder
    August 6, 2006 at 10:39 pm

    Hey there – would you post the weblink to that cool-ass review you received – the one you excerpted?

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