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Confessions of a walnut

Book Review: Sid James by Cliff Goodwin (Century), pounds 15.99
I t turns out that the Carry On image of a cackling and lecherous Sid James slapping the rump of a giggling Barbara Windsor couldn't have been closer to the truth. Carry On Dick might well have been the working title for Sid James, a new biography of the craggy, pock-faced philanderer, which blazes into the bookshops this week promising the usual amazing- truth-behind-the-comedy-legend revelations. With the kind of anecdotal gold-mine that was James's life, author Cliff Goodwin would have had his work cut out to fail to deliver.

From the moment when James first discovered his raging libido, a portrait emerges of a boozing, brawling, gambling adulterer, unable to keep his fly buttoned in the presence of a busty blonde or his wallet from spilling its contents into the tills of the nearest turf accountant. In his wake he left a string of broken marriages (his first father-in-law took a contract out on him), children (some legitimate) who hardly recognised him, and a clutch of debt collectors on the trail of his kneecaps.

The destructive obsession with Barbara Windsor ("He never got over Babs. When he lost Babs he lost the will to live.") is well charted, but, more surprising than any "revelation" comes the claim that James's battered old walnut face actually belonged to that of a sex symbol. His world view was best encapsulated by one of his gruff lines from Hancock's Half Hour: "If you ain't got it, get it. When you've got it, spend it. Eat, drink, be merry - for tomorrow we snuff it."


'Sid James' by Cliff Goodwin (Century) pounds 15.99