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Bad to the Bone

Author: James Waddington

Cover design: Marie Lane   Cover illustration: David Smith  

This is the first great cycling novel and it tackles the big question of modern sport: at what point do you sacrifice your health and sanity for one brief, drug-fuelled victory. A vivid thriller, parts of which stick in the mind for weeks.

The Mirror

Tour de France cycling and drugs. Surely the best insider novel on sport since 'The Hustler', and delightfully mad along Flann O'Brien lines.

Brian Case in Time Out Books of the Year

I was not expecting to be very interested in a first novel about professional cycling. In fact I was entranced, educated and entertained by a rich comic stew containing love, sex, speed, power and drugs.

Peter Buckman in The Sunday Telegraph

Waddington employs a cheerful surrealism to convey the superhuman status of his cyclists and the designer violence of his killer. The encounters with death are funny rather than frightening and the narrator is omnipotent, stylish and amused. Waddington's descriptions of racing, and they are many and enthralling, have the rhythm and intensity of poetry. You're riding with your wheel an inch from the author's, carried along by the surge of the pack, normal life and normal people no more than a muted clamour on the roadside. It's exhilarating stuff.

Joe Cogan in The Independent on Sunday

Racy thriller in which top pros in the Tour de France become ensnared in a Faustian pact with a sports doctor who guarantees success but demands the ultimate price: their lives. Appeared in 1998, the year of the sport's biggest ever drug scandal. Twelve years on it still seems grimly apposite.

William Fotheringham's Top 10 Cycling Novels in The Guardian Online

Surreal novel published by happy coincidence in 1998, the year of the Festina scandal, in which top cyclists in the TOUR DE FRANCE are offered a Faustian pact by a sports doctor: a wonder drug which will make them unbeatable, but which has horrendous side effects. It's fiction. Honest. Pro cyclists would never go so far - would they?"

Cyclopedia, William Fotheringham

This is the most remarkable cycling fiction since Alfred Jarry upset everybody with 'The Crucifixion Considered As an Uphill Bicycle Race'.

Phil Baker in The Sunday Times

Waddington transforms his novel into a kind of Frankenstein on wheels ... an exhilarating free-wheeler of a novel.

Helen Rumbelow in The Times

Waddington obviously knows his stuff, his novel is well observed and keenly felt. Bad to the Bone is a highly original work.

Kate Glaspool in The Guardian

Candid, bizarre and great fun.

Ben Farrington in The Literary Review

Strange goings-on in the cycling world.International races are being marred as competitors suffer fates including crucifixion, brain loss and death by frog. Fiendish sports doctor Mikkel Fleischman may be involved, and cyclist Akil Saenz has to decide whether to accept the Faustian pact of Fleischman's training regime, in his bid to retain the Tour de France. Waddington's weird comedy is told in prose as sleek and stylish as the rider's lycra shorts, making this a striking debut.

Andrew Crumey in Scotland on Sunday

We didn't know bike fiction could be so good, an excellent read.

Cycling Today

' Can you name three good works of erotic literature in the last five years? John Sutherland '... if we are talking about books that contain passages of good sex writing then:1.Bad to the Bone - good on sex with crocuses... Your eunuch would like Prayer-Cushions of the flesh- it is set in a harem. But if he wants to understand how sex can transcend the merely physical, send him the one short sex scene in Bad to the Bone.

Rowan Pelling in The Guardian's Erotic Debate

Setting a blackly comic novel in the commercialised world of sports cycling already marks out Waddington's hilarious and surreal book as something different. You've never read anything quite like this, and Waddington is clearly a unique talent to watch.

Barry Forshaw in Crime Time

The humour is broad, at times scurrilous, and contrasts pleasingly with the lyricism of the race scenes; earthbound vulgar human versus angles in flight. The mystery elements are kept spinning by the investigations of Gabriela Gomelez, a policewoman who is determined that some justice be done for the dead racers.

Ken Neilin The Herald's Book of the Day

James Waddington's excellent, gripping and fantastic Bad to the Bone hits the spot with its wonderful exotic language and its obsession with bodily function.

Summer Book Selection Cycle Sport

Waddington is not only an expert on the Tour de France but also on the physiology, sociology and cultural anthropology of cycling. Combined with his intelligent, jaunty voice and his sharpness and wit, this makes for an impressive and really original fictional debut.

John Murray in The London Magazine unfailing entertaining book to read, full of black humour.

Galway Life Magazine

the slick gearchanges of Waddington's pacy prose do for cycling what Walter Tevis's The Hustler and The Colour of Money did for pool-playing. Even if you are not in the slightest bit interested in the sport, you find yourself pulled along. Suddenly it matters.

Don Watson in The Record

A tale of superhuman athleticism, a Mephistophelian team doctor and a surreal new means of enhancing performance, this page-turner shows Waddington's interest in the sport and how commercial forces will shape its future. The literary pages of Britain's heavyweight newspapers hailed this book as a'gothic horror' and 'furiously persuasive'.

Time Dawson in Bicycling Magazine(US)

James Waddington, Bad to the Bone (1998)

Part murder-mystery, part cycling thriller, this is a great novel about the commercialisation of the modern sport of cycling. It’s very funny, too: full of satirical excesses and bodily goings on.

It’s also good on the ethics of doping and the way in which professional cyclists are reduced, through the demands of their sport, to what Waddington calls “fleshbags of blood and sinew. The usual appetites are suppressed. Everyone just works, eats and sleeps … Legitimate, maybe, but it’s close to vampirism for an honourable profession.”

jon Day's 10 best books about cycling in The Guardian

RRP: £8.99

No. of pages: 196

Publication date: 04.07.2014

ISBN numbers:
978 1 909232 91 4
978 1 907650 52 9

Dedalus World
Rights sold:France (Phebus, 10/18 and Libretto),
Italy (Meridiano Zero),
AST (Russia).