Duncan Hamilton, who is perhaps better known for his award winning book on Brian Clough “20 years with Brian Clough” has once again put pen to paper with his comprehensive biography on England great Harold Larwood. Apart from a collaboration in 1965 between Harold and Kevin Perkins there has been no other biography fully endorsed by the Larwood family and in all likelihood there never will be another. To be honest, there is no longer any need, Hamilton has it covered.
The book is as comprehensive as you could ever wish to read on the former Nottinghamshire pit boy, a book that has obviously been written with a great deal of thought, care and admiration for the once lambasted England hero who played no small part in quashing Sir Donald Bradman’s effect in the notorious Bodyline series of 1932-33.
Harold was not only fast but incredibly accurate. Countless batsmen testify to this fact but it is left to Somerset’s tail-ender Bill Andrews to succinctly tell it how it was “he was bloody frighteningly fast”.
Andrews, like many other batsmen to face the fast bowler, was concerned for his health when faced with the prospect of facing the demon bowler. Following a previous encounter against Larwood, Andrews was so worked up he had developed stomach pains so severe that he was caught on the toilet when he was called in to bat!
Bill called out “who’s out?” to which the reply came back “Frank Lee. They’re bringing him back on a stretcher”. Andrews said “I was really in a state, and it took some time to adjust my clothing. As I passed the umpire I said hopefully – I must have broken the two minute rule”.
With testimonies like that, the book succeeds. The descriptive powers and hypnotic writing style transport the reader effortlessly into the thick of the action, never once letting up – just as Harold did throughout his life. Many players of his time claimed he bowled in excess of 100 mph and was the fastest bowler to grace the game. Who are we to argue!
Hamilton sets the record straight on a number of issues throughout the book and arguably the biggest affect on his career, save for Iremonger and Carr, Bodyline. Despite playing a small part in its inception at the Piccadilly club, we learn from Larwood that the “scone theory” or “Head line bowling” was devised by Douglas Jardine. Jardine spent countless hours creating a plan to all but destroy Bradman or as he was affectionately known “that little bastard”. Buy the book here
Larwood’s upbringing, his undying love and support for his family from a tender age when he worked down the pit is covered along with his struggle to make ends meet once a cricket season finished. Larwood earned the same amount of money playing cricket for Nottinghamshire as he received down the pit. When Larwood finished his playing career for his county his salary was the same as when he started all those years earlier.
Without doubt Bodyline (1932 – 33) and the fallout from it ruled his life for years to come. He never really shook off the tag and where this book succeeds is that it allows Larwood to have a voice on numerous subjects including his dislike of Pelham Warner, admiration and staunch support for his captain Douglas Jardine and is unwavering friendship with Bill Voce.
As time went on, his wounds slowly healed. That was until ABC aired the highly inaccurate Bodyline Series in 1984. Larwood’s family were rightly upset with his portrayal. Following Bodyline in 1932-33 the Larwood’s received hate mail as he did when the new mini series was aired in Australia and the UK on the BBC. To his credit Harold tried his best to reply to everyone who wrote despite the contents.
Harold Larwood’s legacy has been, for decades, his involvement in the Bodyline scandal and nothing would shake the public’s perception and his role in the infamous series. This books changes all that. Harold was a kind hearted man, modest to the end. A man who enjoyed a smoke and a beer with friends, an intensely loyal and loving family man who only had one thing on his mind – to make sure his family were well cared for. He was a great man, cricket made him that more special.
Hamilton’s masterful biography oozes class and without question allows the public to gain an insight into Larwood’s life that has for years been off limits.
Speaking personally and without bias, I cannot imagine reading a better book this year and I certainly feel the richer for reading it. Larwood comes to life once more in glorious black and white and together with the magnificent private pictures scattered throughout the book you cannot fail to be moved by his story.
Highly Recommended – Buy Now