Book Review: Bageye at the Wheel
About the book
A brilliant memoir about growing up in one of the very few black families in Luton in the 1970s and a superb portrait of the author’s father: the feckless, tyrannical Bageye.
To his fellow West Indians who assemble every weekend for the all-night poker game at Mrs Knight’s, he is always known as Bageye. There aren’t very many black men in Luton in 1972 and most of them gather at Mrs Knight’s — Summer Wear, Pioneer, Anxious, Tidy Boots — each has his nickname. Bageye already finds it a struggle to feed his family on his wage from Vauxhall Motors, but now his wife Blossom has set her heart on her sons going to private school.
In this wonderful memoir Colin Grant looks at his father through the eyes of his ten-year-old self. Colin is Bageye’s favourite ‘pickney’, and often his reluctant companion in his latest attempt to placate Blossom with another DIY project, or a little cash. When he acquires a less than roadworthy old car, Bageye sets himself up as an unofficial minicab service, lack of a driving licence notwithstanding. More profitable are his marijuana deals, until the day he mistakenly entrusts Colin with choosing a hiding place for a huge bag of ganja.
“The book is a classic of its kind, in my opinion; if I were Bageye, I would be immensely proud of it.” – Sunday Telegraph
“He has a great ear for Bageye’s patois-heavy dialect and offers detailed accounts of his father’s simultaneously bathetic and bizarre escapades in which a young, unwilling Grant is sucked into a world of gambling, marijuana, ceiling tiles and unlicensed cabs.” — Daragh Reddin Metro
“Grant’s memoir is the latest in a long series of accounts of immigration from the West Indies. As for Grant’s addition to this genre, I must jettison any claims to cool by confessing that I loved every word of it.” — Peter Carty Independent
“What a fabulous example of storytelling this book is… The authorial voice might be in that fashionable nine to eleven-year old bracket, but it has the rarer psychological insight of a writer remembering himself as a child.” — Keith Bruce Herald Scotland
“Bageye at the Wheel is a wonderfulyl amusing and insightful account of a young Jamaican boy growing up in Luton” – Luton News
About the author:
Colin Grant is an author, historian and BBC radio producer; he has also worked as a script editor and produced several radio drama-documentaries. He has written and directed plays, including The Clinic, based on the lives of the photojournalists, Tim Page and Don McCullin.
Grant is also an associate fellow at the Yesu Persaud Centre for Caribbean Studies, Warwick University, and a judge on the Wasafiri New Writing Prize.
The son of Jamaican emigrants to the UK in the late 1950s, Grant has written a trilogy of books that observes African Caribbean life in the 20th century.
His first book was an acclaimed biography of Marcus Garvey, Negro with a Hat: The Rise and Fall of Marcus Garvey; his second, hailed as one of the best music books for 2011, I&I: The Natural Mystics – Marley, Tosh and Wailer, is the first group biography of the Wailers, although it was as much a social history of Jamaica. And, his third, a departure from his non-fiction writing, Bageye at the Wheel, is a comic memoir based on his father, Clinton George ‘Bageye’ Grant, and growing up in 1970s Luton – at the time, a provincial town with few West Indians. – colingrant.info or twitter.com/colincraiggrant
Where to buy the book:
Bageye at the Wheel can be bought on Amazon.com and most major bookstores.