Over two decades on from his first venture into biography in 1985, so much has happened to Eric Bristow most of which not even the brash 26-year old back then could have predicted.
Deryk Brown’s biography of the then three-time Embassy world champion and four-time World Master (The Official Biography of Eric Bristow – The Crafty Cockney, (London: Queen Anne Press, 1985)left us with the press wondering if Eric and Maureen Flowers would be married soon and Eric looking forward to more world titles yet predicting in the closing chapter that John Lowe would be at the top ‘for another four or five years’.
Brown also wrote ‘If a middle-aged man … brings in [to The Crafty Cockney pub]an awkward, stringy lad … with a rare style when he chucks darts, Bristow will be up at that hockey in a trice. If a kid has got the will, and the nerve, and the personality he can sometimes go a long way.’ Ironically, Brown added, ‘What Bristow achieves over the next ten years depends more on the way darts develops than on Bristow himself.’
In actuality it was Bristow himself (or rather the attack of dartitis) that dictated much of the future of this former world number one. A lot can happen in twenty-plus years and today nothing is the same for Eric. His relationship with Maureen Flowers disintegrated years ago and John Lowe (like Bristow) is still very much with us. The ‘kid with the will’ turned out to be Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor who Eric took under his wing and – in his own words – ‘turned into a monster’.
When I talked to Eric briefly in Manchester in 2008 at the launch of the League of Legends, he told me in no uncertain terms that his forthcoming autobiography would ‘upset of few people’. It will do that, I agree but The Crafty Cockney is not as savage a work as I expected and it is, in my opinion, all the better for that. In fact it is one of the best (and most honest) sports biographies I have ever read.
From humble beginnings in London’s East End, Eric managed to detach himself from the gang culture (as one-time cat burglar, shoplifter and thug) to reach the very apex of the sport he loved. Eric owed a lot to his father and mother both of whom encouraged his interest in darts as he made a meteoric climb to stardom and eventually five Embassy world championship titles. Similarly he acknowledges his debt to Olly and Lorna Croft.
The Crafty Cockney is a whirlwind of a book. It moves so fast that, at times, it is difficult to keep up with the action. It is packed with darting anecdotes (some of which I had already heard in a different form). Drinking bouts with Cliff Lazerenko are legendary and the stories from oches around the planet will bring tears to your eyes; mostly of laughter but sometimes of sadness.
Eric being Eric cannot help taking a pop at some of his fellow dart players. Keith Deller comes in for some scathing criticism as does US darting legend Conrad Daniels, who beat Eric in the first round of the inaugural Embassy; Eric writing of Daniels “I lost to an idiot.”
Eric refers in his book to the first Embassy being ‘the best of eleven sets’. This is an error as the final of the inaugural world championships was played over the best of 21 legs (Rees beating Lowe 11 legs to 7). Another unfortunate error is when Eric refers, on at least two occasions to the late great Bill Lennard and spells his surname ‘Leonard.’ But that is just me being picky.
Importantly The Crafty Cockney reveals the real, human side of the most famous darts player of all time. His near-death experience on board a plane with Maureen, his personal battle with dartitis, his marital breakdown, the discovery of a brother he never knew he had and the devastation he felt when his beloved mother died of cancer, all go to show that behind that somewhat arrogant and egotistical façade there lies a man with a heart who cares about those closest to him and what people think of him.
For a player who thought he had done everything in darts he could do by 1981, Eric Bristow proved resilient in the face of many setbacks and, despite what Phil Taylor continues to achieve, Eric will, in my opinion, always be remembered as the greatest and most popular (and hated) darts player who ever lived. But he is not finished yet.
Eric has signed up for the League of Legends for 2009 but says that “after that I’ll probably retire” adding, sadly, “I don’t get a buzz out of it and don’t want to keep making a prat of myself on stage.” I cannot see him retiring yet a while. He tried it in 2001 and failed. Darts is what Eric does best. Eric Bristow is darts. I feel that when 2010 arrives Eric will still be touring with the ‘Legends’ and drawing the crowds at other exhibitions and events to the sound of fans singing “There’s only one Eric Bristow!” But not even Eric knows what lies round the next corner for ‘The Crafty Cockney.
The Crafty Cockney – The Autobiography is an absolute must for all darts fans. If you do not receive a copy for Christmas go out and buy a copy. The book is published on 18th December by Century, costs £18.99 and is available from all good bookshops and online via Amazon.com. and a very limited number of copies of Deryk Brown’s The Official Biography of Eric Bristow – The Crafty Cockney (1985) are available via http://www.patrickchaplin.com.
© 2008 Patrick Chaplin
ERIC BRISTOW – THE CRAFTY COCKNEY
THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY REVIEW
I was a young teenager in the eighties when Eric Bristow hit the darts seen with all his flare, self confidence and the verbal put downs of his opponents. In those days you either loved him or hated him; a bit like marmite. I love marmite!
Eric appeared in ten world darts finals winning five of them. Three of his wins were in concurrent years 1984,1985 & 1986. He was the Phil Taylor of his day and along with a few well recognised darts players such as John Lowe, Jocky Wilson, Leighton Rees, Alan Evans, Keith Deller, Bobby George, Bob Anderson, Mike Gregory, and Dave Whitcombe put darts on the map. People came to watch his unusual style of throw, some willing him on but many wanting him to lose; however most of the time he didn’t disappoint his fans and if losing wasn’t enough his suffering opponents had to endure his lip!
Back in the eighties Eric was full of lip given the nickname by other players as the southern lip! Eric would verbally castrate virtually anyone whether they be fellow dart players or supporters; he just couldn’t help himself and for anyone thinking he has changed he hasn’t one bit. If you think it is all show think again what you see is what you get.
I have long awaited the arrival of Eric’s autobiography ‘The Crafty Cockney’ and all I can say it doesn’t disappoint. Eric has never suffered fools gladly and coming from a tough East London upbringing he tells his story with all the grace you would expect from him. We have all lived different lives but I doubt many of you have lived such a colourful life as Eric.
I think most people would cut out parts of their life if it’s something they may not want people to hear but not with Eric. You take as you find, warts and all. His is back with a vengeance. The way his describes some of the fellow players may be an eye opener to some but not to the players themselves. Hard nosed, hard facts and speak as you mean is Eric’s way and I loved the book.
Eric as you would expect covers his early childhood, his gang involvement, his rise to fame, the M.B.E., the break with the BDO and the dreaded dartitis which he really has never got fully over. He even writes down some of the weird cures fans sent him but I think someone is having a laugh here! The relationships in his life haven’t been a bed of roses but he still covers details I thought he may have glossed over.
Eric has never been a good boy living his life as he feels fit and being outspoken is his way. The many mad nights out he has had with the lads and players had me in stitches. I will never look at Keith Deller the same way again. Sorry Keith but you are in for some stick here but saying that not many get away lightly. Nor will I ever buy a kebab again without thinking of Eric, all I will say if he is in the shop steer clear! Something always seems to happen but you will have to read the book to find out what!
This is a book long overdue and even if you are not a darts fan I am sure you will find the insight to one of the greatest ever dart players a really good read. A fan or not, Eric is one of those few characters who doesn’t disappoint even in his retirement, if you can call it that!
This book is an ideal Christmas present for any darts fan and I am sure this will feature in the top autobiography lists.
The book is due to be published by Century on 18th December 2008 to coincide with the 2009 PDC World Darts Championships.
Title: The Crafty Cockney
Author: Eric Bristow
Guest Reviewer: Glen Huff
“The Crafty Cockney,” by Eric Bristow, MBE, was scheduled to be published by Century publishing, 18 Dec, 2008 in the UK to coincide with the World Championship.
Eric Bristow, MBE, “The Crafty Cockney” is a true legend worldwide in the sport of darts. He began playing darts as a teenager in the early 1970’s taught by his father George. Before he was 20 he was playing for England, and was already a multiple World Champion and legend in the game before his mid-20s. His tournament wins are too numerous to mention but some notable highlights are: 5-time winner of the Embassy World Professional championship: 1980, 1981, 1984, 1985, and 1986, was also a 5-time champion of the Winmau World Masters, 4-time winner of the North American Open, and was winner on numerous World Cup teams. Not only did he become one of the few players ever to win the “News of the World” tournament twice, he was the only person, other than the late Tom Barrett, who won that tournament two years in succession during its 50-plus year existence. Deryk Brown published a biography of Eric in 1985, “The Crafty Cockney” (Queen Anne Press, London, 1985) which covered Eric’s life up to that point, and this new book by Eric picks up his story from then to the present.
I heartily recommend Eric’s new autobiography, “The Crafty Cockney,” to anyone with even a passing interest in darts. It is a fascinating account of his youth in Stoke Newington, a very tough part of East London, then his discovery of darts, his rise to multiple World Champion, and the peaks and valleys in the more than 20 years since his last World Championship. Once his father George had taught Eric darts, Eric took off like a racehorse, and very quickly rose to the top, right as darts was entering its’ “Golden Age” of television coverage in the UK in the late 70s and 80s. Other pros such as Leighton Rees, Alan Evans, Jocky Wilson, John Lowe, Bobby George, “Big Cliff “ Lazarenko, all became household names in the UK along with Eric, with Eric at the top of the list.
His description of the birth of professional darts in the 70s and 80’s, his accounts of his epic battles on the oche with John Lowe, Dave Whitcombe, and Jocky Wilson during that period, and his insights into the eventual BDO / WDC (later PDC) split, which rocked the sport in 1993, are revelatory, and make for some absorbing reading.
Many parts of this book had me in stitches, from accounts of his world travels with his fellow pros, particularly “Big Cliff” Lazarenko, Jocky Wilson, and Keith Deller, to the hilarious account of Eric being awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire), by Queen Elizabeth II, for services to darts.
He also gives great insights into his mentoring and friendship with 13-time World Champion Phil “The Power” Taylor, who has dominated the sport of darts like no other player.
Not only does Eric cover the high points of his career, but he also covers unfortunate events and shocks in his life ranging from his battle with dartitis, to the breakup of his marriage to his wife Jane, his discovery of a brother he never knew he had, and his Mother’s death from cancer. That he conveys both the highs and the lows, warts and all, makes it real for the reader.
Eric is truly a unique sportsman, and truly a charismatic individual, and as of this book was not proof enough of that – his fans and supporters sing “There’s only one Eric Bristow” when he is on stage.
This is one of the best biographies I’ve read in a long while — well worth reading.
Glen Huff is President of the Emerald City Darting Organization (ECDO) and has been involved in the league and darts since he was just a little fellow.
This review first appeared in DartOnion, the Official Newsletter of the ECDO, Volume 2, Issue 1, Quarter 1, 2009 and is reproduced with permission.
(Website: www.seattledarts.com)© 2009 Glen Huff and the ECDO