I had a number of reasons for being so keen on reading this book. First and most importantly, I enjoy Ricky Tomlinson's work immensely. From Cracker to The Royals to Mike Basset I am a huge fan. I am not sure if what comes across on screen is a great acting talent or if this guy is just showing us various sides of himself, whatever he is a joy to watch.
The second reason I wanted to read this is that Ricky is a local lad, a fellow scouser . Many of the places he talks about in the book are common to us both. The post war, bombed out landscape of Walton, Everton and Liverpool Docks is also where I grew up. I too had played in the bombdies, all be it in the eighties. Some of the 'bombdies' ( bombed out buildings) remain to this day believe it or not.
Ricky Tomlinson’s Autobiography starts on 14 May 2002 – the day of his mum’s funeral. He talks a lot through the book about his mum and indeed all the family but you can tell all the way through the book he is his Mams lad. Born in 1939 Tomo is old enough to capture the anecdotes told to me by my Dad and my Granddad and I find his imagery and language very familiar but I am not sure how it would read to those from a different background.
What comes across loud and clear in the book is that Ricky has always liked the ladies; he says in the introduction he has changed some of the names to protect the innocent. The nights spent in pubs and working men’s clubs followed days of hard graft on building sites. Again, the imagery is hard and vivid. This book is seeped in Tomlinsons own personality and he credits Michael Robotham with helping him get his story into shape but I genuinely get the impression that the words belong to Ricky alone.
In 1968, Tomlinson signed up with the National Front. Inspired by the words of Enoch Powell and building site talk he found his political legs and soon moved on from the NF. The parts of the book that chronicle Tomlinson’s political activation are I feel the most heartfelt.
Later in the book, he speaks of finding fame and fortune but it is the picket lines and the time he spent in prison as one of the Shrewsbury Two you pick up the most passion. I hate to admit it as it almost feels like trivialising his obviously tough experience but I found it a touch tedious. I found myself longing to know about the comedy, the celebrity and the fame. I guess I am criticising the subject matter rather than the style of writing, as this is superb throughout. I found it tough going in places and slowed to a few pages a night at one stage.
When we get to the famous stuff it feels almost under played or under valued, I am not sure which. It is admirable that Tomlinson is still a down to earth guy who has stayed the same through think and thin. As the reader I just did not feel satisfied that I know what it is like to be a part of this world. I got the impression that a day on location is just the same as a day on the building site. Just work. Maybe it is unsophisticated taste on my part but I longed for it to be ‘Jackie Colins’d up’ a bit.
Tomlinson is a terrifically talented actor and writer as well as a gentleman (unless you happen to be romantically involved with him). I did enjoy this book for the most part despite the slow patches. I was glad I persevered with it. It’s a nice change to read an account of a life full of experiences and living rather than someone who has had five minutes of fam
The ISBN No. is 0-316-86198-7