One of the greatest challenges to any writer dealing with times remembered and days past is to present the work with appropriate levels of warmth, cosiness, sentiment and nostalgia. It is not an easy task but one which Ian Carnaby accomplishes with apparent facility.
Naturally, his writing is infused with tales of racing, gambling and the personalities who inhabit such worlds. Yet it is so much more than that – a world where sport and his gambling are featured seamlessly alongside another world of jazz pubs, his favourite short stories (some of his own are featured here too) and any number of seemingly random cultural and artistic references.
So whilst you will learn that Skymaster won the 1961 Steward’s Cup and that ‘Martin Pipe is a genius as surely Piggott was,’ you will also be informed that his favourite short story is ‘The Dead’ by James Joyce and that ‘Desert Hearts’ (1986) is a fine gambling movie with an Ella Fitzgerald soundtrack to boot (what’s not to like.)
Few writers can effortlessly weave together memories of Christmas in a handful of paragraphs that include Halloween landing the King George, describing a card deck as fifty-two soldiers in Satan’s army, interviewing the late and top-class tennis player, Vitas Garulaitis, in a hotel corridor, the Hollywood goddess Barbara Stanwyck, the US author F Scott Fitzgerald and that the late and very talented trainer, Bill Wightman, survived a Japanese POW camp ‘even though his weight went down to 7st 12lb.’
But Ian Carnaby can. And does so with a charming ease and deftness of phrase which make the words a joy to read. Carnaby has the ability to recall the heady days of the past whilst making you also realise what a wonderful place the world still is. In the book he describes a book by Al Alvarez as ‘a loving evocation of a twilight world.’ Such a term also applies to ‘Not Minding That It Hurts.’ A loving evocation indeed.