RUBBING SHOULDERS WITH CHARIOTS OF FIRE LEGENDS

April 10, 2024By Mark RyanHow it works

 

It was Chariots Of Fire producer Lord David Puttnam who alerted me to an event in Sunderland the other week – and asked me to send copies of my new book, Chariots Return.
Puttnam and the legendary actor Nigel Havers were going to share a stage with Team GB and Olympic Games medal winner Steve Cram and his eloquent partner Allison Curbishley.
They would discuss Chariots of Fire after a special screening of the iconic movie – which famously won four Oscars back in the 1980s.
I decided to take copies of Chariots Return up to Sunderland personally and meet the protagonists.
David Puttnam was incredibly warm and friendly. Nigel Havers also very kindly posed for a photo with me – and was understandably irritated when the phone camera kept failing.
‘I think this is the longest it has ever taken to get a photo of me in my entire career,’ he said wryly as I cringed with embarrassment.
At the end of the film’s screening, there was a glorious moment as the audience gave Puttnam a spontaneous standing ovation. Havers raised David’s arm aloft in acknowledgement of the beautiful, timeless creation that is Chariots of Fire.
But the biggest surprise and delight for me personally was what Puttnam subsequently chose to say on stage.
The venue in Sunderland was called The Fire Station – and there were hundreds of people present. They all stayed to listen to these distinguished experts talk about the movie and the Olympics.
Without warning, David started to talk about my book, the efforts that had been made to preserve and celebrate the true spirit of the Olympic Games down the years, and how we agreed that Chariots of Fire had played its part.
Lord Puttnam offered the audience a theory or two from my work, and when he had said his piece, he looked straight at me and said of Chariots Return: ‘Brilliant, Mark, congratulations, really.’
I blushed and couldn’t say any more than “thank you,” as people peered over to see who David was talking to.
It was deeply humbling to hear David compliment my book twice more before he had finished addressing that vast audience. And I can’t tell you what a delight and relief that was for me.
In truth, Lord Puttnam could have reacted very differently, and here’s why. He had kindly allowed himself to be interviewed for the book – and had even edited one memorable scene involving Vangelis and his bid to have his iconic, Oscar-winning music inserted into Chariots of Fire at the very last moment.
But when I came to write Chariots Return, I didn’t always agree with what Puttnam had said to me. In fact, when it came to the movie’s Jewish sprinter Harold Abrahams we openly disagreed. And don’t worry, I say so quite pointedly in the book.
Further, I dared to suggest that Chariots of Fire had slightly neglected one 1924 Paris Olympics athlete, Henry Stallard – whose heroics could potentially have made the movie even greater.
Such cheek from me could easily have been taken the wrong way – and probably would have been by many a Hollywood figure I could mention.
But Lord David Puttnam is a much better man than that. He took the criticism on the chin, acknowledged the good place it was coming from, and embraced the main themes of my book warmly. What does that say about him?
It was a long, long drive from Sunderland back down to Hampshire that night.
But I couldn’t stop smiling.

CHARIOTS RETURN: ARRIVAL AND REACTION – WHAT A THRILL!

April 10, 2024By Mark RyanHow it works
When you have worked so hard on a book like Chariots Return you feel great excitement as physical copies finally arrive at your door.
We always know  Clays UK will do a great job printing the book, because they are the best in the business.
But you just want to see with your own eyes the cover you have designed, and watch it “pop” as you had imagined.
Even though I’m the author, I’m also effectively running a small publishing company – Keep It Real Publishing. And I like to work closely on covers with our design specialist Tim Underwood.
We’re perfectionists – and it’s a moment of great satisfaction to see how well a cover works and feel the pages run through your fingers.
The arrival of Chariots Return brought delight and relief – because I felt extra pressure to get this one just right.
When you’re paying tribute to an Oscar-winning film like Chariots Of Fire, you feel you have an obligation to the movie’s wonderful producer Lord David Puttnam. I’m proud and humbled to say that David helped with Chariots Return – and greatly added to its authority of the book.
Later this summer Chariots Of Fire will be re-released by owners Disney and distributors Park Circus to cinemas in the UK and Ireland to coincide with the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
I felt I was dealing with the best of the best – Hollywood royalty – and this inspired me to even greater heights.
Distinguished figures such as World Athletics President Lord Sebastian Coe gave some important insights, as did Team GB legend Sir Brendan Foster.
And you have to show proper respect to the International Olympic Committee when requesting use of the iconic Olympic Rings for the cover. We got special permission to use the rings in the context of a Paris Olympics 1924 identity card – so we were very lucky.
Once we received the books, we sent copies out to some key people and magazines for their reactions. We also alerted Waterstones.
David Puttnam very kindly called Chariots Return: “Terrific! Informative and genuinely affectionate. Brilliant!” That almost moved me to tears because the great man was the one I wanted to impress the most.
Athletics Weekly called my book: “A winner! A timely publication, well written and brilliantly researched.” That meant so much, coming as it did from the athletics community.
For the same reason, when Jeff Benjamin from The Running Network called Chariots Return “Truly phenomenal”, it felt like further confirmation that I’d handled a complex human story and one hundred years of athletics well enough to please those who know best.
Now we’re praying for the sales to reflect the narrative and design quality achieved. And we think the sales can hit the heights too, with the help of people like you!
Enjoy Chariots Return, and thank you for sharing this thrilling experience with me.