Updated: Feb 19
Denis Compton was a cricketer. Denis Compton was a footballer. Denis Compton was a broadcaster, journalist and entertainer. Denis Compton was, is and will always be a cherished sporting figure in this country, and Tim Heald does him justice and then some in his authorised biography.
It's obvious from the first few pages that the author has a deep emotional attachment to his subject, and you can hardly be surprised to hear that. This book was produced with the help and guidance of Denis himself, even if his memory proves to be sketchy at points. I enjoyed the obvious connection and it's only when you come to the pages on apartheid that you become aware that this emotional attachment may have clouded the authors' view.
It's fair to say that Denis was not a political person, however, I found it hard to believe that he could not segment his feelings for the country as a whole, from the awful discrimination that was going on.
However, this book is a superb addition to any cricket fans collection. It's the perfect collection of first-hand accounts by Denis, his teammates, fans and cricket writers who came to love and admire Denis for his swashbuckling approach to cricket, his excellence on the field and his charm and personality off it.
While I wouldn't say this is a social exploration into society at the time of Denis' reign, it does touch on the United Kingdom and how it suffered following the war, setting crickets place in the social consciousness of the time. Tim is careful not to stray too far away from the path of his subject, only briefly taking time to explain the politics behind some key incidents during his life.
I would have liked to have seen a deeper dive into the end of his footballing career, although maybe it is fitting that this comes and goes as quickly in the book as it did for Denis himself. One minute he's playing in a cup final and the next he's retiring for good. I think it's clear that cricket is the passion for the author.
It's hard to read historical cricketing books without romanticising about the era in question. Cricket in the 40's and 50's is a world apart from what it is today, and as international and county cricket fans, it's easy to argue it was significantly better. Denis was an icon of the sport, someone to admire and someone who lived every single day to the fullest.
Tim runs us through the highlights of a long and successful career without it ever seeming to drag or become repetitive. Through how it was a slice of luck for him to get noticed to his time playing for England during the war, that famous 1947 season and his endorsement deal as the Brylcreem boy.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to all cricket fans. You can get your comply from Amazon for just 50p (second hand)