Chris Clark isn’t, technically speaking, famous. He’s been, among other things, a teacher, a radio host, and a professional knife sharpener, whose proudest moment–aside from his family and friendships– appears to be the one time he interviewed a famous soccer coach.
LET ME KNOW WHEN YOU’RE FAMOUS, CHRIS is the meandering but nonetheless entertaining memoir by Clark, who details over 70 years of his colorful adventures around the world, from Wales to Kenya to Saudi Arabia and back to the U.K., with many stops in between. The book may verge occasionally into the territory of shaggy-dog stories, but it’s still funny and often touching.
Published last December, the book goes back to the beginning, literally. It starts with Clark’s birth and continues through his adventures with friends, girlfriends, and family, as his life and career took him to various corners of the globe. The book includes what appears to be contemporaneous entries from his diaries and letters from the people mentioned above, in addition to photos. Clark, born in 1948, is a native of Canton, a section of Cardiff, Wales. Growing up with friends who have names like “Foxy,” “Spick,” and “Bopshi,” Clark devotes individual chapters to each phase of his life, whether it’s a school he attended, or a job he held.
The author taught English in Kenya, and later taught in Saudi Arabia, coming up with some trenchant observations about the latter country (“They hide their women but flaunt the ugliest face of capitalism.”) Then he headed to Abu Dhabi, to work another teaching job associated with an oil concern in the late ’70s and early ’80s. He even ran afoul of the local sharia court, after a traffic misunderstanding, which led to his departure from that country. Clark ended up hosting a radio show, which is when he interviewed the famed soccer manager Brian Clough, perhaps best known as the subject of the book and movie “The Damned United.” One gets the impression that the half hour he spent talking to Clough was a highlight of his life, and the book’s text links to the YouTube clip of the interview. Even the title of the book comes from something Clough said to Clark that day.
The book’s later chapters detail Clark’s marriage and the lives of his three children, as well as his return to Wales and his shift into a surprisingly lucrative career as, of all things, a professional knife-sharpener. The book ends, poignantly, as Clark tells the story of the death his mother, whom he called “Mam.”
Readers may not have heard of Chris Clark, but his memoir, LET ME KNOW WHEN YOU’RE FAMOUS, CHRIS, is a winning, often funny and occasionally touching story of a long and colorful life.
~Stephen Silver for IndieReader