Stirred But Not Shaken: The Autobiography by Keith Floyd

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Stirred But Not Shaken: The Autobiography by Keith Floyd

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Category: Autobiography
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Ghost-written but very revealing about Floyd himself and definitely recommended by the Bookbag.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: October 2009
Publisher: Sidgwick & Jackson
ISBN: 978-0283071058

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I grew up with television cookery programmes and still have some recipes in my childish handwriting, which begin 4oz SR fl 2oz marg 2oz C sug… as I battled to copy what was on the screen before we retuned to the presenter. Programmes stagnated as the cook spoke to camera and lectured the viewer on how to make sponge cake or a fish dish. Then we were shocked awake. There was a man, quite good-looking in a raffish, slightly dangerous sort of way, who cooked on the deck of a trawler or wherever the whim took him, always glass in hand and who was quite capable of berating the cameraman about how he was doing his job. Like him, or hate him – you could not help but know that he was Keith Floyd, or Floydy to millions.

Floyd had passion and at his best he was one of the television industry's supreme natural communicators. Unfortunately this was more than balanced by a private life from hell, with four failed marriages and a complete lack of any financial organisation or acumen. I always think of Floyd along side George Best and snooker's Alex Higgins – flawed geniuses who brought what they did to a wider audience than had existed previously but who found difficulty and little happiness in their private lives.

Stirred But Not Shaken: The Autobiography has been ghost-written by James Steen and it's one of the best examples I've seen of a ghost writer who perfectly captures his subject - warts and all – whilst still retaining the subject's trust. It's more revealing than many autobiographies in that he not only tells the facts of Floyd's life but speaks additional volumes in the way that Floyd tells his story. Scrumping for apples, it seems, is not a crime. Yes, it is – it's perhaps not a serious one, but it is a crime. Floyd was not a drink-driver despite a conviction for driving when he was more than three times over the limit. There was a point in Floyd's life when he couldn't work – because the money would have been taken to pay off his debts.

Reading the book it was difficult to escape the conclusion that Floyd didn't particularly like himself, that whilst he had sought fame he came to epitomise the loneliness of celebrity. He was, though, a generous and giving friend although perhaps naïve and too trusting on many occasions. He seemed to have a complete aversion to reading contracts and money drained through his hands like water. For a more affectionate (if still critical) look at Floyd you could do worse than to read Shooting the Cook by David Pritchard. I suspect that this autobiography was written not only to raise money – a point which Floyd makes with an air of resentment at one point – but to counter some of the statements made in Pritchard's book. Strangely, whilst he contradicts small points of fact which generally matter little one way or the other he makes no attempt to counter the image of himself in the book.

Despite being one of the most famous faces on television with countless Floyd on… series behind him, many of which are still being broadcast with only the clothes looking dated he has in recent years suffered from malnutrition and addiction to alcohol. He was no stranger to Intensive Care Units or to being reliant on friends for accommodation and care but it's heartening that in the final few months of his life he seemed to have found love with a woman who had been a friend for forty years. It's also ironic that he should die within weeks of completing his autobiography.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

For another autobiography of a celebrity chef you might like to have a look at Spilling the Beans by Clarissa Dickson Wright.

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