Tears & Glory Review

The task of any speedway historian isn’t an enviable one – no matter how eventful the subject matter – since there’s only so many ways you can describe a race, a meeting or even a season. This difficulty has been elegantly overcome by Arnie Gibbons in his account of the 40 year history of the Reading Racers Tears and Glory: The Winged Wheel Story.

Obviously, as you’d expect, this book is a treasure trove of historical information and statistics on the Berkshire club – for this alone – it would be worth purchasing. Any speedway book that also promises to and does cover the “walk outs, sit downs, fight, crashes, drugs, shopping, law suits, battles for control, transfer requests” is going to get you to turn the pages quickly.

However, where Tears and Glory really comes into own is in the thoughtfulness of Mr. Gibbons’ presentation of each year – both within it’s speedway context but also because of his keen eye for quotidian detail drawn from elsewhere that he weaves into the narrative (including the wider context of the social, political and cultural life of Britain or, indeed, the town of Reading itself). These snippets and nuggets of quirky information really sets the book apart. In what other speedway books would you learn about the local newspaper reporting of the ‘pretty ankle competition’ held at the Huntley & Palmers Recreation Club Gala or gain such insight into matters like road infrastructure developments in the Smallmead area?

The rigorous approach to each chapter taken by Mr. Gibbons will interest anyone with a curiosity about speedway rather than just those with a connection to the Reading Racers. For example, by far the longest chapter in the book deals with the events of 1984 and what he terms ‘speedway in crisis’ or, at least less melodramatically, could be called a significant turning point for the sport (from which it arguably never fully recovered). It’s chapter includes all you’d expect on the Racers season plus the implosion of the leagues, the Sunday People bribes scandal and Michael Lee fiasco coupled with other issues like four teams riding permanently with a guest rider that season.

We all know speedway is a hugely dangerous sport and Mr Gibbons fully respects and acknowledges this since the book is dedicated to (and movingly covers) Denny Pyeatt and Geoff Curtis – Reading Racers stars who both lost their lives racing.

Overall, Tears and Glory is a thoughtful and well researched book that should find its way onto any speedway fans bookshelf. Every club should have an Arnie Gibbons.

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