Are Sam’s diaries the voice of one young speedway rider calling out over two decades? And is it too late to put things right?

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The fans called him Black Lightning but his career ended in tragedy

The Story


AT the end of the 1976 season, idly rummaging in the workshop of veteran Australian Bill Baxter, Joe Barnes discovers a set of diaries written by Britain’s first black speedway rider. Sam Richards came to England in 1948 on the S.S. Empire Windrush in the first wave of immigrants from the West Indies. But why hasn’t Joe heard of him? And where is he now? Bill explains that Sam got caught up in the events of 1958 when West London erupted in what became known as the Notting Hill Riots. He was convicted of murder and sent to prison. Although he should have been released by now, Sam had been killed in a prison disturbance some years ago. Was it just a tragic end to a promising career that began at New Cross and ended at Wimbledon?


Getting to know Sam through his diaries, Joe is far from convinced that things were quite as they seemed. Could the real tragedy be that the young Jamaican had been the victim of a miscarriage of justice?


Driven by the certainty that something is wrong, Joe has to look beyond the diaries to the characters he meets in them. To Sam’s only living relative, his sister Dorothy; to Lloyd, whose squalid room he shares on first arriving in England; to Lenny, the teenage Teddy Boy whose body was found in Sam’s flat; and to Morris Archer, veteran racer who still runs the motorcycle shop where Sam worked. But at a distance of almost twenty years, is it too late for Joe to discover the truth?

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