Saturday, 29 March 2008


Legend of Speed: the Burt Munro Story Tim Hanna with David Larsen, Puffin, 175 pages, ill, paperback, NZ$17.95 ISBN 0-14-330310-7

This paperback is a tribute to the power of the movie, The World’s Fastest Indian.

Two good accounts of Burt Munro’s exploits have appeared this century, and now one of them, Tim Hanna’s One Good Run (2005) has been adapted for young readers with the help of David Larsen. The result is a chatty, easily-read account of Burt Munro’s remarkable feats with his 1920 Indian. The familiar stories are all here: the Edendale farm boy’s first motorbike ride, the Oreti Beach races, the constant rebuilding of the machine and the triumphs on the Bonneville salt flats in Utah, in the autumn of his life.

While Burt emerges as an exemplar of the Kiwi spirit, there is no attempt to whitewash events, like the marriage break-up that followed his plan to shift his motorbike workshop into the living room!

The downside to the relaxed informal style is a lack of hard information, with no index or glossary. We never find Burt’s dates (although he tells a policeman that he was born in 1899), the technical data for his machines or specific details of his speed records. Young readers who want to know more may try Hanna’s original 308 page account or George Begg’s Burt Munro: Indian legend of Speed (2002)

This review was first published in The Press, Christchurch, New Zealand on 19th May 2007.

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