The wit and honesty that is conveyed in this book left me with a Smiler-esq grin on my face the entire time I was reading. Being a self professed coaster enthusiast, this book provided some incredible insight into the hard work that went into the best rollercoasters in the world and the imaginative people behind them. However, the large sections on John's early career are just as interesting and well written as the latter sections that focus more on theme park development. The whole book felt like a labour of love written by someone who just loves making people smile. And smile I did. I urge anyone even vaguely interested in the industry or even someone just looking for a witty, often hilarious, life story to pick this book up. Thank you John Wardley for making millions laugh and cry; whether it be using steel and concrete, or pen and paper.
This really is a very interesting and insightful read and I found my self whizzing through it in a couple of hours.
I bought this having spent the last year making the most out of a Merlin Annual Pass taking my kids to the various attractions but mainly Chessington. I was probably about 7 when I first visited Chessington when the Bubbleworks and Vampire were brand new and having re-visited as an adult with my own children found myself interested in the concept and development behind it - which led me to this book.
I definitely got want I wanted out of this book, though some of the bits I was most interested in were quite short i.e Building the Vampire, I wanted to know more and get more insight - though I am sure I will find another source. What I also got from this book that I wasn't expecting was the clear message that perseverance, hardwork and luck can get you to some pretty amazing places.
This book reminds me of a pre-exam season school assembly. The speaker told of the "Good Luck" cards she received before her exams, then she talked the pupils through her revision schedule, the many extra hours she had put in throughout the academic year and ended with "...and the harder I worked, the 'luckier' I was in my exams".
As a Coaster Club member, I have had the pleasure of listening to John Wardley talking about his work, the plans for the rides he develops and his sheer enthusiasm for all things entertaining. I used to think "What a lucky guy working in this fantastic industry". This book hammers home the reality - he got to the top through single-minded determination from an early age and a willingness to start at the very bottom of a job and put in some seriously hard graft.
It was the early years parts of the book in which I enjoyed the most, with theatrical blood on his Mother's side of the family giving him a very early introduction to the world of the illusionist and a family printing business heading his way on his Father's side. The way John navigated his way through his teenage years to ensure he ended up taking the college courses that would help him on his way to his preferred career should be a recommended read when it comes to career guidance at school.
The behind-the-scenes material as he started working at Barry Island was fascinating, having now realised that I had ridden some of John's early creations, such as the Scream Machine. Then, when it comes to Alton Towers, it might be that there were fewer real revelations as I was a major coaster enthusiast by this time, there is remarkably less content regarding the behind-the-scenes aspects. Also, this book is really a review of John's career and how it developed. It's not so much of an autobiography as there is very little about his private life. I'm sure that there are plenty of tales he could tell, but he actually says in the text that he won't - fair enough. He first mentions meeting his future wife while at college, he says "More on her later", but this is limited to a single mention of her in one of the last few chapters. There are some other omissions - I would have liked to hear about his work on other shows - was he not behind the illusions for "The Phantom of the Opera"? I would have been very interested to hear about that - especially as he used similar illusions in one of the shows at Alton Towers.
It is a short read - I read it in one session, mainly because I couldn't put it down! The rather odd thing about the book is that it is set in a sans-serif font, which is a little uncomfortable on the eyes. Still - it is a great read and every coaster enthusiast or anyone with an interest in going behind the scenes at the theatre or a James Bond movie should take a look at this book.
Absolutely loved this book. As a keen theme park visitor I have always known about John's work but always wanted to find out more, this book gives a great insight into his life, his career path and some lovely anecdotes. Comes across incredibly well in the book and seemed to be liked by many. Thanks so much for sharing your journey and memories John. I am a maths teacher and would love to get in touch with you about how I can enthuse and engage students in lessons with the maths behind amusement rides and roller coasters. Please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org if you read this or if someone who knows him reads this and can pass on his email address to me. Thank you once again.
I read this book a while ago but forgot to leave a review. The book is excellent and John Wardley gives excellent insight in to the mind of a creative genius. A combination of stories from his life involved with themed attractions and theme parks, very interesting read.
On a side note; I had a question about this book and actually emailed John, he replied the next day and was very helpful. Nice to know the man behind the magic is a true gent.