I was listening to Radio 4 and heard Johnny Nelson talking about his career. He wasn’t on for long but I immediately thought there was book in him. I didn’t know the half.
I also didn’t know him and people are a bit dubious about letting a complete stranger start writing their life story. But BBC presenter Tanya Arnold made the introductions, Johnny and I hit it off immediately and when I started to research the story I knew it was a cracker.
But this time I wasn’t going to do all the work until I knew we had a publisher. A presentation went to about a dozen suitable houses and lo and behold Lucien Randall from John Blake phoned. They wanted a meeting. Johnny was brilliant – sincere, interesting, saying all the right things about being willing to put time and effort into the promotion, and by the time I got back to Yorkshire, the email was sitting there with an offer.
I usually start the information gathering with something simple like a basic family tree so that I’ve got the names and dates of birth right. When I suggested that to Johnny he laughed and said, ‘that could be tricky’. As he explained, I realised that this was going to anything but another cliched sports autobiography.
If you know anyone – especially a young person – having a tough time in life or struggling with self doubt, give them a copy of this book. Johnny’s is an extraordinary story from being labelled a coward to becoming undefeated World Champion. Legendary trainer Brendan Ingle describes him as ‘the biggest success story from our gym.’
Among others who are sharing their inspirational books or quotes for the National Year of Reading in a collection called Personal Best are Junior Witter (Hard Road to Glory by Johnny Nelson)
If you want a copy of Hard Road to Glory, it’s available direct from John Blake Publishing