Dettori story finds the going good

Richard Edmondson examines the latest literary offerings from jockeys, journalists and bookmakers
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The Independent Online
Only those who have pitched their tent in close proximity to a Shining Path guerrilla encampment recently will be unaware that Frankie Dettori's autobiography is on the shelves.

If there is a television programme that does not feature either Jill Dando or racing's laughing boy at the moment it must be on just after the milkman has risen. Dettori's ubiquity (he has appeared on Top Of The Pops, The Big Breakfast, Smillie's People and Clive Anderson All Talk among others) is explained by the publication of his life work to the age of 25.

This book was to have followed the format of those reliably terrible turf dirges and charted the path of a personality over a season's span. However, when Dettori was ejected by Shawanni at Newbury in June it may have hurt his elbow but it did no harm to A Year In The Life Of Frankie Dettori (Heinemann, pounds 15.99) as the Italian was forced to investigate other areas. Thus we get a flavour of the teenager's spartan early days in Newmarket, though there is less discussion about another taste, for narcotics, which an immature Dettori sampled in 1992.

The main criticism of the book, as it is with most turf biographies, is that there is a nomad's attitude to dwelling when it comes to reflection on misdemeanours and mistakes. Nevertheless, given the popularity of the named author (who claims the book is just about all his own work) there is much to believe in the assertion of Dettori's management that the book is going well.

Michael Kinane has, on the other hand, had a relatively barren season leading up to his authorised biography. Nevertheless, Michael Clower has done well to get a book out of a jockey who speaks as frequently as Pinocchio before Gepetto got his chisel out.

Mick Kinane Big Race King (Mainstream, pounds 15.99) concerns a man who has reached the same heights as Dettori without a trace of the same level of enjoyment. The most compelling sections of this effort come when Kinane analyses his own character and manner. The jockey damns himself from his own mouth and occasionally sounds like the sort of bloke with whom you would not like to survive a shipwreck.

Timing has also been of the essence with David Ashforth, whose Hitting The Turf (Headline, pounds 14.99) is available just after the author's deserved recognition as the racing writer of the year. This book is vaguely autobiographical and probably sharply distressing for the writer's family. Ashforth revels in his role as one of Britain's most serious unprofessional punters.

The sketches he provides are well-observed and, most importantly, in a sport that churns out enough romantic junk to fill Becher's Brook, they are real. It is quite simply the best racing book for some time.

Christmas is also the time when Graham Sharpe, William Hill's media relations manager, churns out one of his compilation books. Mrs Sharpe must get very annoyed with all those slivers of paper left behind the settee all year as hubby snips items that tickle him from the national press. Odds, Sods And Racing Certs (Robson Books, pounds 14.95) has been done before, but it does possess the single greatest attribute this writer can think of. I'm in it.

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