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From the Eye of the Hurricane by Alex Higgins

Release date: 31st May, 2007
Publisher: Headline Publishing

List Price: £18.99
Our Price: £11.38
You Save: £7.61 (40%)
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From the Eye of the Hurricane
By Alex Higgins
Headline Publishing price: £11.38, saving 40% on rrp

There's an unconscious process involved prior to readers embarking upon a sporting icon's autobiography. It's a sensory experience which takes account of cover photography and font style, involves a quick glance at the dustcover to see who has actually written it, a check on paper thickness, while that unique smell of newness wafts invitingly as pages are examined.

Almost inevitably during this two-minute process, the book will fall open on a couple of photographic collections which invariably bring memories flooding back. In this instance, they show Alex Higgins and his dad with an oversized snooker trophy, a young Alex winning the Northern Ireland championship in 1968; a succession of children, showbiz pals, world crowns and rather more graphic snaps of black eyes and broken ankles follow before the reader alights on one of Alex and two of is sisters.

Surely not? It takes perhaps three takes before the instantly recognisable visage of Alex Higgins can be determined from the skeletal, cancer-recovering figure squeezed between Anne and Jean. Catching a glimpse of this photograph before starting From the Eye of the Hurricane has an immediate influence as it becomes difficult to read without a sense of sadness.

This is not to say that Higgins wallows in self-pity, far from it. In such a high-profile, hell-raising career, it is inevitable that a succession of very funny tales emerge and it is to Higgins' great credit that he pulls no punches where he knows he was out of line.

One relatively minor incident involving the father of TV presenter Eamonn Holmes encapsulates this as Higgins' actions later catch up with him, but throughout this book, there is little to suggest that Higgins is a deliberately obtuse or nasty figure. On the contrary; this most naturally talented snooker player, who initially had ambitions to be a jockey, clearly enjoyed the attention which came his way after he became the youngest-ever man to win snooker's World Championship in 1972.

But Higgins' tale is a worryingly familiar one: working-class lad makes good and finds fame and fortune, before embarking on a succession of romantic liaisons. He revels in the showbiz lifestyle, occasionally happens upon some unsavoury types, but eventually, the booze takes its heavy toll. His form slowly deteriorates, his money evaporates at a faster rate and instead of a happy family life and a big home, divorce follows and he finds himself upon the cusp of a jail sentence for failing to make regular maintenance payments.

Higgins readily admits to never having been an angel, but time and again, readers will suspect that had he been better managed throughout his career, his life would have taken an entirely different route. As his monetary woes multiplied, Higgins took one former manager, Howard Kruger, to court and sued for £51,000 although Kruger's company admitted to a liability of just £21,000. Meanwhile, the taxman was chasing for a six-figure sum and on top of this, Higgins found himself falling further behind with maintenance payments.

Yet Higgins does not seek sympathy, he merely wants to set the record straight.

Indeed, when his cancer is discovered (a diagnosis so severe that he was administered the Last Rites), he is sanguine, the book closing with an open invitation to "shake my hand and have a drink. I'd like that." No doubt Higgins' legion of fans would too, because they'll certainly enjoy reading this intriguing autobiography, even after seeing that distressing photo.

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