Time was when every schoolboy in Britain knew about Capt.Webb; matchboxes carried his name and image; he figured high on the list of heroes and tales of derring-do - I'm not sure if the same holds true nowadays, so this book is an attempt to set the record straight (even so, we are surprised to discover that someone had beaten Webb to it ... but not by swimming),
Written in an accessible, flowing conversational style, it goes beyond 'the Crossing' to trace the life and exploits of this remarkable man. Incidentally, Ms.Watson (no relation) aspires to be a channel swimmer - this lends a certain authority and credence to the rest of the book; not that it needs it, the research into Webb's life is meticulous.
At the time, swimming the channel was as daunting as climbing Everest; many authorities stating categorically that it was an impossible feat. However, Webb seems to have suffered from no such fears - totally confident, he persuades backers with his no-nonsense charm, incidentally laying the basis of the British love-affair with swimming.
After the success of the crossing, we see more of Webb's bravado and determination ... but directed into increasingly desperate money-making schemes, culminating in the one that would end his life.
One feels for the man, driven as he was by some inner need, but reduced to exhibitionism instead of taking an easier option on life.
A very enjoyable read. *****