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I am huge fan of Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman's motorbike trips, Long Way Round and Long Way, to the point that I recently said they would be my specialist subject if I were ever on Mastermind, I know them that well and have watched the DVDs and read the books that many times.
I'm a fan of Ewan in his own right, but I've never seen much of Charley on his own. I didn't really watch much of his Race To Dakar, although I have read the book. But I watched his new adventure, By Any Means, last year, and watched the follow up and found it enjoyable. So I picked up the book in the library to give it a go.
By Any Means is the story of Charley's journey from Ireland to Sydney...by any means of transport possible. One of the first things I noticed about the show was that this was an almost misleading title - it seemed more that they were trying to clock as many means of transport as possuble, not just take anything available.
The journey itself has the expected problems and moments of panic, along with some truly inspiring moments. But this review is about the book.
The book of By Any Means is attributed to Charley Boorman, but as with the Long Way books, it states inside that it was written with another author. I expect this means Charley did some dictation, made some notes and the book was put together by another author who also used the tv footage. This isn't a criticism though, and I may be wrong.
Charley's personality comes across very strongly in the book, perhaps more so given that I know him well from watching him on tv so much. I find I can hear his intonation as he writes and picture his expression.
The descriptions of people and places are very good and I do feel like I am transported there, but it is actually hard for me to decide whether this is due to the writing or due to having seen the very scenes being described on the tv show.
By Any Means was a perfectly enjoyable and reasonably captivating read, but there were a few negative points for me. One is the absence of Ewan. Yes I am a big fan of his, but I wasn't merely missing him. One of the things I love most about the Long Way trips is the friendship and banter between the pair. Charley has Russ Malkin along for this trip, who will be familiar if you've seen the previous shows, but he is much less of a presence and their relationship just isn't as close or as strong as Ewan and Charley.
Another problem with the lack of Ewan is that Charley is undiluted so to speak. His manner can be slightly over the top, so when he is on screen with Ewan there is a balance to that, or in the books by both of them, they each have short sections and I find Charley doesn't get too wordy. In this it is all Charley, and he gets irritating now and then. It seems that every place he goes to, he "vows" to return. I wonder if he ever has?
Don't get me wrong, I really like Charley, but I think he works better with Ewan than on his own. I'll continue watching his shows and reading his books, because they are enjoyable, but they just don't have the magic that Long Way Round and Long Way Down did. Here's hoping for another of them!