Finally, I can tell you about my latest book. It’s been agonising not being able to share it with you.
In September 2020, I bought a mysterious reel of film at a London auction house. It was very old. That much I knew. And it was probably from the Tour de France. But that was about it. One day it simply arrived through my letter box in a jiffy bag, and everything changed.
As the world shut down again, heading towards that first, dark Covid winter, I immersed myself entirely in an increasingly obsessive mission to learn everything I could about the film; the characters depicted, their identities and life stories, triumphs and tragedies. What I learned of them was astonishing. I then mined the film for every little scrap of information about the landscape and buildings which provided the backdrop to the great race. I learned with increasing fascination and awe of everything that was going across the continent of Europe on the day the film was made; its horrors and its utopias. What I read and learned led me ever deeper into the fevered world of post-war populations navigating their fragile futures through the hopes and terrors of 1923. It was a year of massive upheaval.
But always, I returned to the race itself; an edition of the Tour as arduous as it is possible to imagine. In learning the stories of the riders in my film, I was drawn with ever increasing obsession to the figure of a lone rider who crosses a mighty bridge. Just a dot of white on the film. Who was he, exactly? What had become of him? Who remembers him? And what happens if we are entirely forgotten, erased?
1923 is part detective story, part love story to the race which has become a part of me. But it is also an account of where the mind could stray when the outside world shut down; freefalling through a hundred years to land alongside the characters in a long-forgotten drama, one ordinary, astonishing day in history. On a bike race.
This book is my proudest achievement. I have been living it for well over two years. I hope that you will enjoy the journey as much as I have.
It’s out on June 22nd this summer. But you can pre-order it here.