Harold Larwood, By Duncan Hamilton

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The Independent Culture

Despite the scores of books written about the Bodyline series of 1932-33, Harold Larwood, England's principal strike weapon, remained something of an enigma. He generated fearsome pace – many argue he was the fastest ever – for a man standing just over 5ft 7in, and terrorised the Australians.

In the ensuing furore he refused to apologise for his actions, stating correctly that he had been following his captain's instructions and had nothing to be ashamed of.

Cast off "like toxic waste", to use the author's memorable simile, by a pusillanimous MCC, this proud but shy man disappeared into the shadows for decades. Re-emerging towards the end of his life, he was surprised to find he was now regarded more as hero than villain even in Australia, where he emigrated in 1950.

Finally his memory is honoured with the biography it deserves. Duncan Hamilton has produced a tour de force of research, social history and lucid prose which rehabilitates a wronged working-class hero.

Published by Quercus in hardback, £20

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