Critical Notices: I Like Alf

It’s been a slightly demented few weeks. From a standing start, suddenly a job lot of reviews dropped in, almost all positive. None were negative, I guess what I’m trying to say is some reviews weren’t very good as reviews. I think maybe there should be a threshold for people writing reviews; possibly starting with functional literacy, then moving on to reviewing the text, rather than the reviewer’s ego or ideas of what should be in a text that they didn’t actually write.

As per usual, some of the loveliest words of praise came have come from readers, who have been very open in sharing their opinions of the book. For this, I’m always grateful and it means a huge amount. Sometimes, in the dark of winter, when you’re trying to finish a tricky chapter and failing, all writing seems like a ridiculous exercise. By the time the book comes out you’re so close to it you can’t even see the words anymore, it all just seems like so much hot air, wasted paper. It is therefore lovely to be told otherwise, especially when people use phrases like, “a wonderful cadence”, or “lyrical, flowing prose”, or even better still, “a magnificent achievement”.

The best of the formal reviews has come from Feargal McKay; he’s very much the reviewers’ reviewer, by dint of the fact that he takes his time and gets into the book like an archaeologist, looking for layers of meaning. He’ll then tell you if it’s there or not.


There have been other reviews, but I’m not going to link to those right now, I’m sure they’ll come up in a google search. They are all fine. Simon Smythe at Cycling Weekly ran a super three page spread on Alf Engers, then linked it to my book with some really lovely comments. I’m informed it’s getting a second look this Thursday coming as well:


The Comic has stepped up a gear this off-season with a string of really well-written articles, including this week’s Michael Broadwith special. Highly-recommended, particularly for the brilliant photos…

Image from the sequence with the other one which everyone keeps posting and painting about. Broadwith coming up the Shap just before 5am.

William Fotheringham, The Guardian, author of “Put me Back on My Bike” and “A Sunday in Hell”, general cycling sage and good egg, tweeted about the book recently, which was a fantastic and formative moment.

Foth tweet

And Herbie Sykes, author of Race Against the Stasi, a really great book, mentioned that it was on his Christmas list. What a treat!


All in all, a great couple of weeks. I’m now fully immersed in a new project and have spent the past few weeks putting together a proposal for a new book. It’s done, and sitting on someone’s desk, leaving only the incipient fear of rejection. Someone will publish it. I think.






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