Title: On The Edge: My Story
Author: Richard Hammond
Publication Date: 29th May 2008
Publisher: Orion Publishing
Richard Hammond is one of our most in-demand and best-loved television presenters. In September 2006, he suffered a serious brain injury following a high-speed car crash. ON THE EDGE is his compelling account of life before and after the accident and an honest description of his recovery, full of drama and incident.
An adrenalin junkie long before his association with Top Gear, Richard tells the story of his life, from the small boy showing off with ridiculous stunts on his bicycle to the adolescent with a near-obsessive attraction to speed and the smell of petrol.
After a series of jobs in local radio, he graduated to television and eventually to Top Gear. His insights into the personalities, the camaraderie and the stunts for which Top Gear has become famous, make compulsive reading. It was whilst filming for Top Gear that Richard was involved in a high speed crash, driving a jet-powered dragster. His wife Mindy tells the story of the anxious hours and days of watching and waiting until he finally emerged from his coma. In an extraordinarily powerful piece of writing, she and Richard then piece together the stages of his recovery as his shattered mind slowly reformed. The final chapter recounts his return home and his triumphant reappearance in front of the cameras.
Let me just start off by saying that this is probably one of the best autobiographies I have ever read.
The book begins with Hammond talking about a skiing challenge he took part in as part of Top Gear after the crash, and how it affected his balance. He goes on to talk about his life from when he was a child and his developing love for cars and bikes (it all began with a bicycle and a home-made ramp). He writes about his teenage life, and his first proper jobs working for radio stations around England. This is when he met his wife Mindy and the two daughters they had a few years after.
The main section of book centres on the 2006 accident that shook everyone: a jet-car experiment that he and the Top Gear team were determined to try out. He describes the car, the experience he had driving it at beyond-insane speeds, and finally, how he felt in those last moments before he blacked out and the car flipped several times off-course.
“While the events were jarring and upsetting, Hammond writes with clarity and humour.”
His wife Mindy then takes over to describe what life was like for her and their daughters whilst Hammond was in a coma in hospital. Some parts are extremely sad; their two daughters were very young at the time, so it is an emotional section of the book. Mindy covers the events in their life when Hammond emerged from the coma and was well on his way to recovery. She maps out their journey to a secret cabin in the Scottish Highlands to hide away from the press, and his triumphant return to his home and, of course, Top Gear.
The way that the book is written is gripping and while the events that happened were jarring and upsetting, Hammond writes with clarity and humour. I can imagine that the story is inspirational to those who have suffered brain injuries themselves, or know somebody who has.
As a Top Gear fan at the time of reading, I really enjoyed getting to know my favourite of the TG trio through this book. If you’re a Top Gear fan (or ever have been), it’s a must-read!
This review was originally published on Goodreads in 2012.