George Best, tackled: Immortal

Review: Duncan Hamilton’s meticulous research has produced a surprisingly revealing biography

Sat, Jul 12, 2014, 01:00

   
     

Book Title:
Immortal: The Approved Biography of George Best

ISBN-13:
978-1846059810

Author:
Duncan Hamilton

Publisher:
Windmill

Guideline Price:
£8.99

Given all the ink previously devoted to George Best you’d be forgiven for thinking there was little new to be added to the subject, yet Duncan Hamilton’s meticulously researched book succeeds. It’s surprising to hear Best had a near-genius IQ; it’s strange that he was so disappointed with his match-winning performance in the 1968 European Cup final he went on a massive bender; and it’s sadly predictable that many of the tales that surround him are untrue, often born from bar room braggadocio. The one with the “Where did it all go wrong George?” punchline? A myth.

Hamilton has previous on tackling soccer icons. Provided You Don’t Kiss Me stands as one of the great sports books, but whereas that effort benefited from being up close and personal with Brian Clough, Immortal is written at a slight remove, a tale told through family and friends. That distance, though, helps to underline Best’s enigmatic and unknowable nature as a performer saddled with a poet’s soul.

Like Best’s career, this is a game of two halves, thrilling in the Manchester United days, and then heart-breaking as alcoholism slowly devours him.