Trumper: The Illustrated Biography

Published: 1985
Pages: 240
Author: Mallett, Ashley
Publisher: Macmillan
Rating: 3.5 stars

Trumper: The Illustrated Biography

Bradman has had numerous books written about him, but the first true legend of Australian batting, Victor Trumper, has been the subject of very few. Victor Trumper and the 1902 Australians by Lionel Brown was released in the early 1980s, however, it was a review of just that year, and not a complete summary of Trumper’s career. Jack Fingleton’s The Immortal Victor Trumper, published a few years earlier, was also not particularly thorough. Ashley Mallett, the former Test off-spinner, recognized that the lack of a decent biography of Trumper left a hole in Australia’s cricketing history, and Trumper : The Illustrated Biography was his attempt to rectify this mistake.

Mallett was a journalist by trade, and has written a number of books about cricket including a biography of Clarrie Grimmett and a review of the 1868 Aboriginal Tour of England. The combination of being a cricketer at the highest level and a journalist places Mallett is a wonderful position to write about the game. Mallett admits, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, that the book is not intended to be definitive. Indeed, his own introduction comments that there is undoubtedly information missing from his presentation of the Trumper story. The use of the word ‘illustrated’ in the title is nearly enough to put off the serious reader, but that would be underestimate its value. The book is presented in a large format, with many pictures and photos, but there is important content to go with it.

The book concentrates upon the cricketing performances of Trumper, and reviews his career with reasonable detail. One of the most interesting parts of the book relate to the 1902 series against England, as Mallett had access to Trumper’s personal diary of this tour. Extracts from this diary are reproduced, and they help to convey a picture of the man Trumper was. Not all of these diary entries portray Trumper in the best light, and this is important, as in other parts of the book Mallett almost falls into the trap of becoming too flattering to Trumper’s memory. From all accounts, Trumper was an exceptionally generous and well-liked individual, but the diary entries assist to portray Trumper as a real human being, rather than the minor deity with no faults that Mallett initially presented him as.

As with Mallett’s other books, his research is not always 100% accurate. The book does make some errors that a good proof reader should have picked up. It must also be said that Mallett’s literary style would never be confused with that of great authors. The storyline does jump around, and it was almost repetitious at times. Mallett’s writing is serviceable, rather than stylish, but it also does not detract from the book greatly.

The minor criticisms mentioned above do not significantly reduce the book’s value. I enjoyed Trumper : The Illustrated Biography, and felt that it met its goal of providing the public with a review of Australia’s first great batting genius. It did not attempt to be the definitive analysis of Trumper’s life, but rather a summary of his cricketing career. And in this, it succeeded.

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