Kieren Fallon, by Andrew Longmore

Authorised or unauthorised – which is the best approach to biography? Withoutco-operation, an author has freedom to investigate closets for skeletons but is denied the chance to probe his subject at first hand. With approval, the danger is that awkward questions remain unanswered.

This examination of Kieren Fallon is a halfway house: while the six-times champion jockey did not talk to Andrew Longmore directly, he gave tacit approval to others in his circle to do so. The result is an absorbing, authoritative account of the volatile Irishman's highs (15 Classics, including three Derbys) and lows (assaults, drink problems, a lengthy trial on charges of conspiracy to defraud, the 18-month ban for cocaine use he is currently serving). If Fallon had chosen his friends as wisely as he did his trainers, his life would doubtless have been easier. But whether a more settled existence would have blunted his genius is a question Longmore – and probably Fallon himself – can't answer.

Published by Orion in hardback, £18.99