Book Review: Too Busy To Die

  • By: Dave Ord
  • Last Updated: September 25 2013, 12:51 BST

Dave Ord reviews the recently-published "Tommo - Too Busy To Die", the autobiography of Derek Thompson.

Derek Thomspon: Very enjoyable autobiography
Derek Thomspon: Very enjoyable autobiography

Some would argue that comparing Derek Thompson to Marmite is a little unfair on the yeast-based spread - but both it seems have the ability to divide opinion.

Professionally I've had very few dealings with the man other than being referred to as "Big Fella" when opening various press room doors or having to reject the chance to have Tommo TV on sportinglife.com at the Newmarket July Meeting in 2010.

Bizarrely, like a few of his former Channel 4 colleagues, his stock seems to have risen since the launch of the IMG-produced show. Their appearance in front of camera was the stick with which many opted to use to beat the old Highflyer-produced programme. Now their absence is bemoaned with seemingly equally relish.

It's a funny old game.

And 'Tommo - Too Busy To Die' is a funny old book.

Ghostwriter Lee Mottershead has done a predictably fantastic job in holding the piece together, from Bob Champion's foreword through 262 pages to the acknowledgements.

There are chapters entitled "Itchy Feet", "Bob's Finest Hour", "Derby Days, 007 and a rude Rod Stewart".

It should be awful, but isn't. It's remarkably readable and, above all, fun - an element missing from so many racing tomes.

It's lazy to compare Derek to Alan Partridge - but if you've seen his promo for the Crown Hotel Bawtry on Youtube (and if you haven't please have a look right here) it seems to be something Tommo is positively encouraging.

And it's no lie to say his book has a definite feel of 'I Partridge'.

Don't buy Tommo 'Too Busy To Die' if you want to know about the life and times of a racing broadcaster, for tips on how to break into the game or find out more about the man, his strengths and weaknesses.

But if you want a few hours of entertainment and of endless anecdotes then this is your book. It's like a text version of a very good Best Man's Speech.

Go on, close the curtains, take the phone of the hook and dive in. Let it be your guilty pleasure on these long autumn nights.

Not convinced? Page 104:

"And while I'm on a roll I've got to say that I once had an unpleasant experience with another diminutive international star, Rod Stewart. I was working for the radio station talkSPORT at Windsor one Monday night when I happened to see Rod. I went over to him, perfectly politely as always, and asked him if Tommo could have an interview. All he said back to me was "F**k off!

"There and then I vowed never again to buy one of his records, and do you know what? I've been true to my word".

All that's missing is the phrase 'Needless to say I had the last laugh' and there are many, many more.

There are more serious and moving chapters. Derek's recent battle with cancer, the Top Cees court case and his "central" role in the bid to save Shergar but even in the darkest hours there's levity.

His thoughts on his career with the BBC and Channel 4 are interesting - and unsurprising - but overall it's refreshing to read a racing book in which the subject does not take themselves too seriously.

When it landed on my desk I had real mixed feelings about picking it and doing the review but I'm so thankful I did. A very, very enjoyable read - whatever side of the Tommo fence you sit and thoroughly recommended.

Tommo - Too Busy To Die - is published by Racing Post Books and available now


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