Book Review: James Whale. Almost a Celebrity. A Lifetime of Night-Time.

By | September 26, 2014

Anyone interested enough to consider buying James Whale’s book will often also have their own story about him to tell.

Anyone who doesn’t have a personal story, will remember his radio and TV shows up and down the country over many years, and will be a fan of the talk radio format.

Back in the late 80’s, when I was a spotty teenager, James was doing the night-time talk show at Radio Aire in Leeds. Over here in Manchester, we could just about get it.

I was an avid listener. So much so, I wrote a letter to the show (because that is what you did in those pre email days) asking if I could sit in on one to see how it all worked and meet the chap. I wasn’t really expecting a reply, but I got one from a lady called Linda, who said it was fine and just to show her letter to the security guard to get in. Can you imagine that happening today?

Together with my squeeze at the time (a wannabe page three girl who never made it) we hopped into my old banger one night and headed over the tops for Leeds.

Being pre Satnav days, I only had intuition and road signs to guide me. I got lost. Radio Aire was tagged onto the side of Yorkshire TV, so asking locals eventually got us there.

By the time we eventually arrived, it was very late and the show only had about 45 minutes to go. I had forgotten my letter. The security guy didn’t really want to let me in. I convinced him the letter actually did exist and eventually he relented. My squeeze and I met James, chatted in the breaks and I got to see how it all worked first hand.

That late night in Yorkshire was my first time in a radio studio (although not my last) and it helped cement the radio bug I had – and still have today.

After Radio Aire, James got himself a TV show, and a little more notoriety and later moved to Talk Sport – that I don’t listen to. I rediscovered him recently via his Twitter account, and we occasionally banter. Hence, I found his book, and hence this review.

The above preamble is relevant, as the first thing you will read in Almost a Celebrity is the Foreword by Chris Moyles.

I could almost have wrote the short Foreword myself. I was immediately transported back to the eighties as Chris starts by discussing the very show I also used to listen to Whale on Radio Aire. Like me, he once visited Radio Aire as well during the same period.

The early chapters of the book cover James’ early family and professional life. And in there you will learn something about his name that I won’t tell you here.

I was reminded of the episode of his TV show where he got up and walked out. I remember watching that and the media circus that followed it. In the book you will learn what was behind that.

The book is interspersed with small sections between chapters of personal opinion on various topics. Its an unusual format technique I haven’t seen before. But one that works if you read books in small short spurts as I do.

James is well-known as a very outspoken chap. Very often with people in the media who are like this, you are disappointed when you scratch the surface and find an insecure arsehole underneath. James doesn’t come across like that in his book. In reading his book, you get to ‘meet’ the man behind the image.

James discusses the cancer he had in a very candid way. He now heads a charity called The James Whale Fund for Kidney Cancer. Why not take a look and cough up a shilling towards a good cause? We also like to do small things for charity where we can – its nice to help those less fortunate than yourself.

James also isn’t shy to discuss some mistakes and errors of judgement he has made through his life. Any man of the world will have been there and will relate to it. He also isn’t shy about acknowledging his wife Melinda’s input and support through his long career and past illness.

If you know of Whale, and are a talk radio fan, and are not a fan of political correctness, you will enjoy his book. I just bought a second copy to send to a chap I know who owns a radio station in Oldham.

If you are a cheapskate, you can find a cheap copy on the internet. If you want to help fund James’s curry addiction, get a signed copy for £6.95 including delivery from his site here: James Whale: Almost a Celebrity. A Lifetime of Night-Time.

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