Dylan Jones: 'It's the minutiae of George Best’s behaviour which is the most fascinating thing'

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The Independent Online

By rights, your friends should never write books, principally because when they do you're a) expected to read them, and b) say exceedingly nice things about them. Which means you often have to lie. Which in the long run is no big deal, but if you know a lot of writers, that's an awful lot of lying.

Not only that, if you work in the media, you might be coerced into saying something flattering about said book, which will then leave you open to accusations of sycophancy, nepotism and log rolling. So you're damned if you do, and screwed if you don't.

Which is why it's such a huge relief if one of your friends actually writes a book that you don't have to lie about. A book that properly seduces you and worms its way into your affections. Which brings me to Celia Walden's new book, Babysitting George (Bloomsbury, £16.99), her account of looking after George Best for three months in the summer of 2003.

She was sent to Malta by her editor to keep Best away from the press, and to try and make sure he saved all his best stories for the column he was meant to be writing for her own paper. And not only did she succeed, she also forged an intriguing relationship with her charge.

Babysitting George is funny, affectionate and tragically sad by turns, and the book actually sheds new light on the ex-footballer. It's the minutiae of his behaviour which is the most fascinating thing in Celia's book – what he reads, what he watches, how he drinks (this is a book in itself), and how he treats the constant stream of people who come up to him in the hope of walking away with an anecdote. I devoured it in a weekend.

Of course I'm fully expecting to be sent another one of my friends' books by the end of the month, and in anticipation of this, I have come up with what I think is a clever new strategy, one I'm going to employ every time someone I know puts pen to paper (so to speak).

The next time a friend of mine asks if I've read their new book I'm simply going to say this: "Of course I have. But not personally."



Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'

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