/ The Villain

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kingholmesy - on 20 Jan 2013
I don't normally go in for climbing books much, but thought I might give this a read. Is it any good? I'm more interested in rock climbing than mountaineering if that makes any difference.
Minneconjou Sioux - on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to kingholmesy:

You need to be more interested in the character and the history and accept that there might be some bias in the way it is written.
Offwidth - on 20 Jan 2013
Michael Griffith - on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to kingholmesy: yes, it's worth a read, but bear in mind that Perrin clearly didn't like Whillans and this does comes across in the book in my opinion. There were clearly quite a few reasons to dislike Whillans but he was a hero to many of us. I'm not sure if its in the book but the story of his antics on The International Everest expedition was wonderful. His behaviour and farting even caused the French to walk out on the whole thing, which I suppose is what he intended in the first place. I spent a lot of time (too much) in The Padarn in the early seventies where the biggest priority was NOT to bump into Whillans in the lavs.
kingholmesy - on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to Offwidth:

Cheers, just occurred to me after posting that I could do a search!

Having scanned those threads it sounds kinda hard work.

I was actually in the book shop looking for a copy of Paul Pritchard's Deep Play, but unfortunately it's not in stock.
Al Evans on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to kingholmesy: I liked Whillans, he came to my wedding and took my wife off for a spin on his new motorbike in her wedding dress. He was a great character, like him or not he was one of the great characters of UK climbing.
By the way, I don't think Jim Perrin didn't like him.
Postmanpat on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to Al Evans:
> (In reply to kingholmesy)
> By the way, I don't think Jim Perrin didn't like him.

Glad you said that because I think Perrin just tried to be honest. He got on ok with him but recognised whillans was quite a complex and not always very attractive character.i think it's a very good book.

AdrianC - on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to Postmanpat: Same. I thought Perrin did an excellent job with this book and I'm not normally a huge fan of his writing.
Enty - on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to kingholmesy:

Bloody hard work reading that!!

Cavey's 1st book came out at the same time - one took me 3 days to read, one took me 3 weeks to read. Guess which ones.

E
Rob Exile Ward on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to Al Evans: I don't like Perrins biography, he never explains why so many people DID like Whillans if he WAS such a complete b*stard... or give some sort of narrative about his trajectory.

I'm pleased you liked him, nearest I ever got was seeing him in the Vaynol when he looked a bit of a sad character, and climbing with Frank Cochrane who had climbed Aiguille Poicenot with him (and gave me some anecodotes which never made it into the book) - now they definitely didn't get on, but I can understand both points of view.
Tall Clare - on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to kingholmesy:

Slight aside - keep hunting for Deep Play as it's definitely worth a read. It's one of my favourite climbing books.
Enty - on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:
> (In reply to Al Evans) I don't like Perrins biography, he never explains why so many people DID like Whillans if he WAS such a complete b*stard... or give some sort of narrative about his trajectory.
>
>

Nail on head there Rob.
I also have a close friend who spent a lot of time with Don - bloody hell he's told me some tales!!

E
kingholmesy - on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to Tall Clare:
> (In reply to kingholmesy)
>
> Slight aside - keep hunting for Deep Play as it's definitely worth a read. It's one of my favourite climbing books.

Found it! Spotted it on the shelf after being told by the shop assistant they didn't have it. Couple of chapters in and really enjoying it.

The Villain will have wait for another time. From people's comments it sounds like it's worth a read, but requires a bit of effort.
JIB - on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to kingholmesy: I enjoyed reading 'The Villain' because I thought Jim Perrin tried to present a balanced perspective about a controversial character. Perrin was transparent about why there was a delay in publishing the biography, and this is an important feature of the biography. For this reason, in particular, I think 'The Villain' is a worthwhile addition to the existing texts on Whillans. Certainly, subsequent responses have allowed further debate about Whillans's life and legacy which is a further complement to Perrin's biography.
stroppygob - on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to Postmanpat:
> (In reply to Al Evans)
> [...]
>
> Glad you said that because I think Perrin just tried to be honest. He got on ok with him but recognised whillans was quite a complex and not always very attractive character.i think it's a very good book.

What he said.

John W - on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to Al Evans:

I met him a couple of times towards the end of his life - my main memory is of a New Year's Eve do in a pub in New Mills, where he told me he was fed up to the back teeth of every new hot-shot "hard man" wanting to fight him or arm wrestle him., To be honest, I was glad to buy the old bugger a pint and chat to him for a while, and in a JFK sort of style, I still remember exactly where I was (on the bus to Cham as it happens) when I heard he'd died. For all his many faults, he was a legend as well as a bloody good climber - and although climbing standards now are at a level perhaps unimaginable in Don's day, it seems to me that there is a distinct paucity of "characters".

If proof were needed, I had the pleasure of re-reading some of the earliest editions of "Crags" while on holiday recently (where a certain Mr A. Evans of this parish featured prominently) - the contrast between the climbing world "then and now" leaves me with a massive sense of longing for the wild, anarchic, unorthodox, raucous and chaotic world which existed when I started climbing.

So to the OP - read the book for yourself and see what you think.
Ramblin dave - on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to Postmanpat:
> (In reply to Al Evans)
> [...]
>
> Glad you said that because I think Perrin just tried to be honest. He got on ok with him but recognised whillans was quite a complex and not always very attractive character.i think it's a very good book.

Yeah, I'd agree with that.

How good a portrait it actually is I guess only the people who knew him well can say, but it certainly seems balanced and interesting. I quite like the way that it doesn't just try to separate the man from the myth but also talks about the myth as a thing in itself that says as much about other climbers than it does about the man himself.

Read Tom Patey's "A Short Walk With Whillans" - his account of their failed attempt on the Eigerwand - for another take on him.
seankenny - on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:
> (In reply to Al Evans) I don't like Perrins biography, he never explains why so many people DID like Whillans if he WAS such a complete b*stard... or give some sort of narrative about his trajectory.

Iirc (read it a few years ago), Perrin writes that a lot of people fell out with Whillans, which is rather different to not liking him at all.

To the poster who said it's hard work, it isn't really but it's not boys-own climbing stuff, there's a bit more to the book than that. You get out what you put in.

alexjz - on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to kingholmesy: I've just read The Villain and really liked it. Didn't find it a hard read at all, enjoyed it throughout, and like people have mentioned previously, it transpires that Perrin tried to give a balanced account of Whillans' life. I really recommend it.

And on the discussion of current characters in climbing, I'd nominate Nick Bullock.
pneame on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to kingholmesy:
Enjoyed this book - it's well researched, compassionate, and is a great portrait of a seminal figure in british mountaineering, warts and all.
It's not a light read, but it's not hard to read either.
Minneconjou Sioux - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to kingholmesy:

FWIW, and this was my own impression created from reading the book not from any personal knowledge, I felt Jim had a close affinity to Audrey (Don's wife) which affected some of his observations.
Al Evans on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux: Another of the Rock and Ice died recently, I knew him and climbed with him, he had gone out with Audrey before Don and claimed Don mistreaeted her (no details), but whenever I saw Don and Audrey together she seemed happy and cheerful.
Pete Ford on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to kingholmesy:

Enjoyed the book, but as I've said before on a thread yonks ago, there are far too many footnotes which could have been incorporated into the book proper. Makes it difficult to read, in my opinion.
Pete
Bulls Crack - on 22 Jan 2013
In reply to kingholmesy:

I found it unsatisfying. Whether this was due to JP's over-examination of the subject or the subject himself I can't quite decide.
John_Hat - on 22 Jan 2013
In reply to Al Evans:
> By the way, I don't think Jim Perrin didn't like him.

I thought Perrin was pretty up front in the book that he wasn't keen.

"I had no wish to be a camp follower or close associate of his"

"don's legacy of rock-climbs.... I found impressive but not ultimately to my taste, their essential quality often centering more around affront than appeal"

etc. All from the forward.

However reading the book, one gets a sense of Perrins intense dislike for Whillans, and a strong - almost fawning - relationship with Brown and especially Bonnington. Obviously that may or may not be true, but that is the sense which the book gave me.

In one particular instance Perrin criticises Whillans for posing for a camera, saying it was typical of the immaturity and selfishness of the man, and then makes a joke of Bonnington doing the same later in the book.
pasbury on 22 Jan 2013
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

I believe Perrin waited for Audrey's death before publication due to some of the unsavoury events portrayed - particularly the lecherous aspects of his character.

Back when I started climbing Whillans was kind of hero worshipped - or at least his image was. The invincible hardman sitting at the top of Annapurna smoking tabs while rouse retrieved his pack. The grainy black & white figure in flat hat with again fag hanging out the corner of his mouth jamming his way up a Stanage horror etc etc.

Most of my early climbing partners could 'do a Whillans' when necessary - quoting him 'aye but we beat you twice at yours' or 'I've got a morbid fear of dehydration' in Salford accent.

But of course we didn't know him. When I read Perrins brilliant book it was somewhat deflating to have one of your heroes brought down to a distinctly flawed human. But that is how he was - much more complicated that the cartoon image we had. I think a lot of it was resentment of the mountaineering establishment in relation Everest expaditions and even of Joe Brown and his greater fame.
pneame on 22 Jan 2013
In reply to pasbury:
The Whillans stories were certainly of the "that's 'ard? No, that's not 'ard. THIS is 'are".
But they never made me especially admire him as a human. He was certainly a tough individual and a gifted climber, but there was a dour and biased side to his character. Seeing him across a bar (and that was the only time I ever did see him, being born about 10 years too late to see him in his prime), one didn't get the impression of good cheer and bonhomie. But would you want him with you on a mountain? Probably - his self preservation bubble would be rather handy!
Would you want to share a base camp tent with him? Probably not!
Simon4 - on 22 Jan 2013
In reply to pasbury:

> .. I think a lot of it was resentment of the mountaineering establishment in relation Everest expaditions and even of Joe Brown and his greater fame

But wasn't that largely a self-created problem?

The mountaineering establishment was quite prepared to adapt and to change its ideas to accomodate the up and coming working class climbers, which it did very effectively with Joe Brown. But then Brown was equally pragmatic and prepared to take people as he found them, not to react on inverted snobery. Indeed when I heard him lecture recently (which he very rarely does), he described the leader of the Kanjenjunga expedition as "one of the nicest men you will ever meet".

But Whillans was just too aggressive, too much of a loose cannon to take the same risk and make the same efforts as with Brown. So they didn't take the risk, and Whillans got even more resentful as a result.

tony on 22 Jan 2013
In reply to Simon4:

I thin I agree with a lot of that, and it makes the relationship between Bonington and Whillans even more interesting. Bonington, for all his position in the climbing establishment, went out of his way to make time for Whillans, and put a degree of trust in Whillans - almost always repaid - when others were happy to let Whillans fall by the wayside.
Al Evans on 22 Jan 2013
In reply to John_Hat: I guess I'll have to read the book to make a sensible comment, but then I really like Jim Perrin and a lot of people find him quite abrasive.
pasbury on 22 Jan 2013
In reply to Simon4:

Very good synopsis I think. I agree that he appeared to bring it on himself (my post was rather garbled as written during a conference call at work - naughty boy :-)
pasbury on 22 Jan 2013
In reply to tony:

But yet again the poor bugger was stood up as Bonners went on to do the Eiger with Ian Clough.
smuffy on 22 Jan 2013
In reply to kingholmesy: Whether you are more into rock climbing or mountaineering doesn't make any difference so long as you can appreciate how our lives are enriched by strong, competitive characters who not only push boundaries but create intrigue, myth and legend.
It doesn't matter whether you end up liking him as a person or not but I guarantee you will come away with a respect that deepens your inner self.
Minneconjou Sioux - on 23 Jan 2013
In reply to pasbury:
> (In reply to Minneconjou Sioux)
>
> I believe Perrin waited for Audrey's death before publication due to some of the unsavoury events portrayed - particularly the lecherous aspects of his character.
>

I dont doubt he did. That doesn't change my perception that, when he wrote the book he felt (empathy, sympathy, affection) for Audrey and this impacted some of his observations.
tony on 23 Jan 2013
In reply to pasbury:
> (In reply to tony)
>
> But yet again the poor bugger was stood up as Bonners went on to do the Eiger with Ian Clough.

I know about that (and I think it's a bit more complicated than being stood up) - it was the later Himalayan expeditions I was thinking about, when Whillans was on the way down and Bonington still invited him to Annapurna.

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