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BAA Journal Book Reviews

Return to the far side of Planet Moore!

Springer, 2015
ISBN 978-3-319-15779-5
Pp xiv + 419, £22.99 (pbk)

Journal issue: 2015 August
Pages: 202–202

The first volume of Martin Mobberley’s life of Patrick Moore, It Came From Outer Space Wearing an RAF Blazer! (2013) gave the lie to Oscar Wilde’s assertion that of a great man’s disciples it is always the Judas who writes his biography. It was a ‘warts and all’ account, to be sure, but the author’s loyalty and admiration for his subject were unflagging and he caught to perfection his larger-than-life nature. One might have thought that after the nearly-700 pages of the original, there would be little more to say, but Mobberley’s follow-up is a very sizeable volume in it own right.

Those many readers who enjoyed RAF Blazer will also enjoy its successor, for it offers more of the same in its behind-the-scenes account of events drawn from Sir Patrick’s long and colourful career. It acknowledges his achievements as both amateur astronomer and public entertainer, but the central theme of Mobberley’s approach is that it was the British Astronomical Association that shaped Patrick’s life, and his narrative provides unique and compelling glimpses into the history and mythology of our Association. Members will especially enjoy the anecdotal accounts of Patrick’s BAA friends and the insights into the pages of his observing notebooks. Along the way there are sections devoted to Patrick’s correspondence, books, cars and even a guided tour of Farthings for the benefit of those who never made the pilgrimage!

If this volume shares the strengths of its predecessor, it also possesses its faults. It appears rushed and is unduly repetitive in places, and it would have benefited from the attentions of a careful copy-editor. It is as eccentric, cluttered and unstructured as Farthings itself, but – as with Farthings – that is also part of its charm.

But this is minor carping. Mobberley is to be congratulated on writing a further compelling and irresistible book that no BAA member will want to miss. The two volumes of his life of Patrick Moore are not the definitive biography – rather, they are (in a positive sense) ‘gossip of the highest order’. There is still room for a more cautious, measured and detached account, and I hope that one day someone will write it. But, when they do, they will not be able to ignore the work of Martin Mobberley.

Bill Leatherbarrow

Bill Leatherbarrow is a former BAA President and a long-standing observer of the Moon and planets. He is currently a Vice-President of the BAA and Director of its Lunar Section.