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Let Me Tell You About Alex, by John Virgo

Welcome to the first of three book reviews coming up here at PSB between now and the end of the season and this one sees me take a look at ‘Let Me Tell You About Alex’ by John Virgo. Thanks to John Blake Publishing for providing me with a review copy.

Now before going any further I must be quite honest here and state that while acknowledging the huge effect that Alex had on the game during the 1970’s and 1980’s, I was never a great lover of the man personally. Also knowing that author John Virgo was someone who played with Alex and was inspired by him, I had expected the book to be something of a one-sided tribute to the double world champion.

Having now read the book however, it is evident that it is far from that as John while conveying how Alex did inspire him and excite him on the table, at the same time does not shirk from describing how ‘obnoxious and cruel’ he could be off it.

He begins by tracing the early roots of his own place in the game, detailing how the billiard hall that his father would refer to as the ‘rat pen’ captured his imagination as a 12-year-old before moving on to describe how Alex’s first world triumph in 1972 helped to boost the professional game which he too was to become a part of.

John goes on to describe how Alex was both on and off the table throughout his peak, most notably detailing a feud with Willie Thorne over a teddy bear as well as the merits of a mid-match drink of whisky and milk. John moves onto his lean spell before turning to that second and most famous world title in 1982 which still came complete with other stories about his friend, sometimes amusing, sometimes offensive, and therefore fairly representative of Alex!

I say friend but the relationship between John and Alex appears to be an interesting one on this evidence. Clearly they were friends although hardly brothers, yet Alex obviously kept him and seemingly others at a certain distance, suggesting that perhaps there was nobody truly close to Alex, arguably the saddest aspect of all. As John would no doubt say though, that was Alex.

On the whole I would say that the book is an interesting read and a good insight for someone like me who was not alive in the 1970’s to witness Alex and some of the goings on during that time period.

It is certainly not without its faults, a couple of strange typos such as describing Rex Williams as Ray Williams, while there are also inaccuracies, for example Alex’s last match at the Crucible was not his defeat to Steve James in 1990 as is stated in the book. There is also for me a significant amount of repetition in what is already a relatively short book for the RRP of £17.95.

Those issues aside however, it is still a worthwhile and balanced look at snooker’s greatest entertainer.

You can buy the book from Amazon here.