The two sides of Christie revealed

Mike Rowbottom on the best reading from the world of track and field

As you might expect, Linford Christie's autobiography and his unauthorised biography provide very different pictures of one of Britain's great athletics champions.

The official version - To Be Honest With You (Michael Joseph, pounds 16.99) - is an unremarkable example of the genre in terms of structure, beginning at the beginning, ending at the end. But it is enlivened by the genuine tone of the man - a mixture of generosity and suspicion.

Christie's world divides into Us and Them - he is considerate and loyal to those whom he considers "OK". His protectiveness of his coach, Ron Roddan, and his real appreciation of his vast public support is touching.

But the others had better watch out. He does not forget a slight, and there is a fascination in reading his account of those whom he feels have crossed or insulted him in his career.

Among them he numbers the former national coach, Frank Dick, the former British 100 metres record holder, Allan Wells, members of the British Athletic Federation - and, of course, "the media" - or large sections thereof. When the real intrusions he has suffered at the hands of the press are set in the personal context, the justice of some of his complaint is strengthened.

Duncan Mackay's Linford Christie (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, pounds 12.99) is an intelligent and lively pulling together of the details of Christie's career. Obviously it misses the first-hand insights and warmth of the man, but it is atmospheric about the big races and provides on occasions a more clear-eyed account of Christie's life, containing awkward details such as the time when the subject took a journalist by the throat to put him straight.

In his own book, Christie expresses his disbelief of the announcement that his British team-mate, Diane Modahl, had tested positive for a massive amount of testosterone in 1994. He goes on to talk about his "serious doubts about the whole testing procedure".

A year on, Modahl has become the first British athlete to win an appeal against an original four-year ban, and her autobiography, The Diane Modahl Story - Going The Distance (Hodder and Stoughton, pounds 14.99) is a gripping account of her trials, which gains much from being drawn from contemporaneous diaries kept by herself and her husband and coach, Vicente.

In parallel to the exhausting campaign to clear her name, there is a love story which could almost be published by Mills and Boon. But when you read the details of their mutual torment, or of how he snatched a knife from her hand after she threatened to harm herself, you are in the presence of something vividly and scarily real.

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