We lost a giant figure in motorsport when Sir Stirling Moss passed away last April.Lewis Hamilton of his day: A name so big his fame eclipsed the sport itself.
In what may well be the first of numerous books to appear since Moss’s death celebrating his life and career, Richard Williams has set the bar extremely high.
This is Willams’ second motor sport book in as many years, following last years’ meticulously researched, if at times heavy going, biography of Richard Seaman. ‘The Boy’ very obviously comes from the heart, being affectionate, passionate and crucially hugely enjoyable to read.
Following the vignette structure perfected by Craig Brown’s 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret, albeit more chronologically, the 60 short and sharp chapters are all fascinating and insightful. I raced through it – the short chapter structure making the book feel as action-packed as Moss’s life.
That’s not to say ‘The Boy’ is slight – it isn’t – the research is exhaustive, but worn lightly and with an at times dazzling deftness of touch. In the space of one page Williams gives a thorough and beautifully described account of how British motorsport restarted after the second world war – it is quite simply brilliant writing, and the sort of prose that should be taught in schools.
This quality runs through the whole book. Although I broadly know the contours of Moss’s career, Williams intuitively knows when to add in those extra details that flesh out the story. Likewise there is some sharp editing here, and the art of omission is well practiced – you’ll need to look elsewhere for exhaustive technical and set-up detail.
Perhaps understandably, and like almost all Moss titles, the majority of the book focuses on his dazzling motorsport career. However, he was a long time retired, and I’d have quite enjoyed a little bit more on several decades spent as ‘being Stirling Moss’ and his tireless role as ambassador for the sport (my dad took me to watch him race in Historics at Mallory Park in 1989 and I remember Moss standing by his car cheerfully signing autographs for all those who wanted one).
For my parents’ and grandparents’ generation Stirling Moss and motor sport were interchangeable, and ‘The Boy’ fittingly follows this lineage. It is a book about motor racing, but one which deserves to be enjoyed by a far wider audience.
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“The Boy: A Life in 60 Laps” by Richard Williams
Author: Richard Williams
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published: 1st April 2021
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