‘Tails’ To Tell: The Bruce Taylor StoryMartin Chandler |
Author: Francis, Bill
Publisher: The Cricket Press Pty Ltd
Rating: 4 stars
New Zealander Bill Francis is a writer who has always been popular amongst the review team here at Cricketweb. He is a fine biographer and thanks to him we know a great deal about the lives of Tom Lowry, Sydney Smith, Barry Sinclair, Bevan Congdon, Stewie Dempster and Mark Burgess. To that distinguished list can now be added the name of Bruce Taylor.
Taylor’s name is one that I know well. The first New Zealand tour of England that I have any recollection of is that of 1969. Back in those days I relied exclusively on my father for my cricketing knowledge and, being just nine years old, was always full of questions for him. One of the things I expected to be provided for me were biographical details of all the tourists and what he had to tell me about Taylor caught my imagination. I was told that Taylor was an all-rounder, a big hitting batsman and opening bowler who had, in his first Test, been the only man in history to score a century on debut and take five wickets in an innings. Half a century and more on and he still is.
In truth I was disappointed by what followed after that. The 1969 New Zealanders were not a strong side, and whilst Taylor bowled well enough he didn’t make many runs. He came back to England with the 1973 tourists, a rather stronger combination who gave England a real fight, but on a personal level Taylor achieved little, so I never did see the best of him.
‘Tails’ To Tell is a small format book so, at 101 pages, is not a full biography, but it is still a thorough account of Taylor’s life. Sadly Taylor passed away shortly after the book was finished, but he had made a full contribution to it so there is an authenticity to the narrative, heightened by the number of Taylor’s contemporaries who gave their time to Francis. Naturally the book contains the full story of that remarkable debut, and concentrates as well on Taylor’s memorable century against West Indies at Eden Park in 1969, but the rest of Taylor’s career as well as his early life are well summarised in the first, rather longer part of the book.
Taylor retired from cricket at the age of only 30. The reason, hardly surprising given his exceptional height (he was almost 6’ 4”) was a persistent back problem. Having left the game he did well in the media, commentating on the game and doing other television work before, five years later, making a successful First Class comeback for Wellington.
It was after the second retirement that Taylor’s life began to fall apart and it is much to his credit that he was happy to be candid with Francis over that. Taylor developed a gambling addiction which he was unable to fully fund, and he eventually committed a serious fraud against his employer in an attempt to do so. The outcome was a prison sentence, financial ruin and divorce. Worse still the relationship with Taylor’s two children never really recovered from these blows. In time Taylor did marry again and most of his friends did not desert him, but his later years were dogged by persistent poor health and while Part 2 of the book has some upbeat moments as Taylor smiles in the face of considerable adversity, it is not an entirely happy read.
All in all ‘Tails’ To Tell is well up to the usual standards of its writer and its publisher. It is a superbly produced and well illustrated little book that deserves to be widely read. It is highly recommended.