Touch Wood – The Autobiography of Duncan Hamilton Book Review

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Touch Wood - The Autobiography of Duncan Hamilton

Touch Wood - The Autobiography of Duncan Hamilton

Book Review by Grant Ford I must admit I was a little sceptical of this books proud boast that Chris Evans proclaimed this ‘maybe the best book ever’. Quite a statement; I found this story had one major disappointment the fact it had a final page.. I normally have to be in the right frame of mind to sit down and plough through several hundred pages, not the case with Mr Hamilton’s amazing story. It had me laughing out loud mid-flight from Stansted at 7.00am in the morning and sat up way passed bedtime ignoring the early start the following day. Duncan Hamilton was followed by danger all of his life, he was an accident waiting to happen; how he survived when so many of his friends and competitors didn’t was one of life’s great mysteries. Born in Cork, Duncan was as my mum would say ‘trouble from the word go’; he makes no excuses for his behaviour and from an early age escapes serious injury whether self-inflicted or avoiding the gun-man’s bullets in what he refers to as ‘Irelands troubles’. At six the family fled to West London and a new life; post school and Brooklands called his two passions in one place, aircraft and motor racing. A distinguished military flying career during WW2 in which he confirms surviving when so many didn’t, may well have changed the way he looked at life. A business life in the motor trade and a racing career that reached its pinnacle in 1953, when partnered by Tony Rolt he took a C Type Jaguar to victory at Le Mans 24 Hours. This era of motor sport is well documented as being ridiculously dangerous and death was common place; Duncan witnessed the terrible Le Mans crash of 1955 from the pit area whilst getting into the car for his stint. His own life put at risk so many times, you can only imagine the ‘Grim Reaper’ chasing Duncan around the race tracks of Europe and Africa, never quite able to catch up. The schedule for drivers of this time was ridicules, constantly travelling from track to track often driving through the night to jump in another car in another country. Written as if he is telling you the story over a pie and a pint, a real in-sight into top class motor sport in the 50’s and a ‘matter of fact’ approach to his post-race ‘shenanigans’ that will make you giggle like a school boy. One crash too many and the death of so many friends meant Duncan Hamilton retired from racing the same time as his great pal and equally naughty side-kick Mike Hawthorn; who died on the A3 shortly after. Whilst some very sad moments took place during the era covered, the writer does not portray this in a depressing fashion; it’s just the way it was. A life packed with countless funny moments; being stopped for speeding in Central London whilst on route to make a TV programme about road safety, just one of dozens. First published in 1960, a second edition followed thirty years later; this man’s story is timeless. Re-released for 2014, ten years after his death at aged 74, it is a must have book, petrol head or not. Touch Wood
  • The Autobiography of the 1953 Le Mans Winner Duncan Hamilton
  • Published by John Blake Publishing Ltd
  • Paperback and Ebook
  • Foreword by Earl Howe 1960
  • Adrian J Hamilton (Duncan’s son) 1990
  • Chris Evans 2014