Did you know that Aussie racer Barry Smith won a TT at the Isle of Man with a motorcycle he’d only done one practice lap on? I didn’t either, until I read his honest and entertaining autobiography Whispering Smith.
Like Barry’s self-backed career, this book is self-published, and that’s a big part of its charm. It’s not polished, it’s not edited into a concise and compact package in a bid to attract a large number of readers with diverse interests, it’s just a book of stories as Barry remembers them. It’s honest and revealing, not conceited or egotistical, and definitely not reserved in what is said – or how it’s said. Whispering Smith is a hugely entertaining story about a talented young man who with self-belief and resourcefulness won two world championships and countless races.
Although the thing you quickly realise about Smith is that nothing is ‘countless’. His accuracy is evident throughout the book, and you’re often left wondering how he managed to remember each and every event in such meticulous detail: racetracks, temperatures, even tyre pressures.
Smith’s determination and devotion to win races takes you with him on his title-winning journey; his knowledge and self-taught technical mind makes it as informative as it is entertaining, and his outspoken honesty keeps
The yarns. You feel less like you’re reading a book and more like you’re sitting next to Smith in a pub as he regales you with tales of racing both here in Australia and as part of the Continental Circus in Europe. You go from marvelling at his ingenuity – like when he was overnighting from Queensland Raceway to South Australia’s Mallala Motorsport Park, his mate driving the ute while Smith travelled in the back with his bike and a torch, rebuilding the engine on the way – to welling up at his hard-fought successes. And because it’s self-published, Barry will autograph it for you, too.
We didn’t like
Lots of words are squeezed on each page and you often have to open the book really wide to read the last part of the line. Towards the end of the book some pages in my copy even started falling out. But Barry Smith is an all-in type of guy and it’s nothing a bit of sticky tape can’t fix. I bought Whispering Smith for my dad last Christmas and the same thing happened to his copy, but as he pointed out: “It’s characteristic of the author, so it’s not perfect, but I made it happen – my way!”
Whispering Smith is 330 pages of frank and fascinating tales about juggling life, family and dreams, about overcoming setbacks with sureness and being the best you can be.