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27th November 2009

Race to Dakar, by Charley Boorman
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Some times we're asked if we ever review anything we don't actually like. Well, Dave Blendell really didn't like this book...

Despite my total antipathy towards Mr Boorman I picked up a copy of his 'Race to Dakar' book in a local charity shop. Although I was a lot less than impressed with his televisual style I enjoyed 'Long Way Round', admittedly sometimes despite his puerile input... but the subject matter appealed and surely it wasn't an event where childish behaviour could intrude.

Well I got to page 133 before abandoning the thing and I very rarely don't finish a book. The early pages are full of the wonderfulness that is Charley Boorman, with compulsory whinges and whines sprinkled liberally amongst the anecdotes; the sheer hell of being a builder in London for example. No doubt tears were shed in the Gaza Strip, the favelas of Rio, etc that one man should endure so much. Highlight is the run down of his acting career and the classic comment that he got his biggest role when 'the casting people didn't realise I was the Director's son'. No, of course not, Charley.

Our (or at least his) hero gets massive help and support thrown at him which he barely deserves. He throws tantrums at training sessions, pulls out of enduro events in a huff, storms off home when it's pointed out he's not pulling his weight and still manages to think himself a better rider than one of Britain's most experienced and capable Dakar riders, Simon Pavey, at the end of it.

Chaz sticks to type when at a press conference organised by BMW, who have thrown hundreds of thousands of pounds his way, he's asked by a journo how he's prepared himself mentally. Young Charles is bemused when his reply of 'plenty of w***ing' doesn't get the response such an outstanding example of comic repost deserves.

Race to Dakar, by Charley Boorman
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When we get to the race it's the same story; Boorman complains about everything and everyone, not least one of his team who Charley can't keep up with when he's supposed to be filming and making the whole thing a showcase for Boorman. 'It's supposed to be about me…' Quite Charley, but sadly it is and you just don't see it.

With someone else, just about anyone else, telling the tale this could have been a great book. The subject is fascinating not least due to the tales of amazing endurance and some of the characters who do this kind of thing to themselves. Sadly it was an ego trip punctuated with a bizarre mixture of self-aggrandisement and list of disasters mainly down to Boorman's personality and character flaws. I realised I wasn't enjoying it at all. Unlike the Dakar my reading isn't supposed to be a test of endurance.

I only paid a quid for it and think I'd have cried if I'd paid the cover price. I didn't expect too much as I'm not a fan but I'd go as far as to call it unreadable, disjointed, rambling and incoherent. I persevered as I thought that when it got to the actual race there was no way it could trundle along in the same vein. Wrong. Nobody did anything to suit Charley; he had problems with the route planner that nobody else did, didn't give anyone any credit despite obviously being 'carried' and played the desert hero while bizarrely complaining that his photographer had trouble travelling as slowly as he did and criticising Simon Pavey's riding style. It's a bit like me saying Valentino would be quicker round Brands if he did it my way.

Nice picture on the front and some interesting bits but the worst bike-related book I've ever read that didn't have Sonny Barger's name on the front.

Reviewed by Dave Blendell

This review was originally posted on the RealClassic message board, where Dave can be found posting similar comments on a variety of topics...

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Race to Dakar, by Charley Boorman is published by Sphere in paperback, ISBN-10: 0751538175, ISBN-13: 978-0751538175. Buy a copy from Amazon and help support RealClassic.co.uk.


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