“…he’d underestimated me. I would make sure he paid for his mistake. Whenever anyone underestimates me I always know the fight is mine. Their weakness makes them unprepared and gives me a window for the first shot. I train for the first shot – it’s all I need.”
The opening paragraph in the preface to Geoff Thompson’s Watch My Back sets the scene for the roller coaster ride that is to follow. This is the story of Geoff Thompson’s life, beginning with his childhood, documenting his journey to adulthood, and his many years manning the doors of some of Coventry’s most colourful establishments.
Watch My Back details Geoff’s upbringing with his family in Tile Hill Coventry, and gives us a little background on the man so familiar to so many people today. He recounts his countless battles with fear as he grew up, and explains to the reader the ways in which fear can stop a child in his tracks. Geoff discusses his earliest experiences of the martial arts, and the shattering effect this could have had on him, and his battle to not allow his experiences to direct and control him and his actions.
Also mentioned in Watch My Back is Geoff’s study of Shotokan, and the internal conflict that he felt on adapting the art to work more practically for him, and the confusion he felt at making these adaptations.
The bulk of the book is made up of his time spent on the doors, facing people who wanted to flatten the earth with his head. Geoff has a way of writing that completely encapsulates his personality, and reading the book, you are left feeling exactly as he feels in each chapter, sharing his whole spectrum of emotions with him. He manages to engage and entertain us as readers at the same time, making this book an easy read, a real page-turner of an event, that quite frankly, I read in one sitting. His musings on each individual who chose to instigate violence are incredibly frank and honest, and I have no doubt will make you feel differently about bouncers and all that they have to see, process, react to and cope with.
The chapters are fantastically anecdotal, candid, and quite often humorous with chapters entitled ‘The Art of Fighting Without Fighting’, ‘The Man Who Couldn’t Be Knocked Out’, ‘Humour in Adversity’ and ‘Pork Pies and Pot Noodles’, amongst others. Each chapter dedicates itself to a moment, a series of moments, that have each etched themselves into the memory of Geoff Thompson, each for their own reason. Some chapters will make you angry, some will shock and some will make you laugh, but each will cajole you into feeling.
Each chapter tells it’s own tale, and what becomes glaringly obvious is that alongside all the violence and stress and difficulty, is an air of positivity and friendship. Geoff discusses the friends he made and the fantastic events in his life as much as he discusses any of the events that happened on the doors. He examines his relationships with those he grew to trust and love, and those who he relied upon, and who relied upon him. This book details as much about his personal growth as about his tumultuous life as a doorman, and you find yourself feeling that you get to grow alongside him, and indeed feel as he feels.
The book ends with a particularly poignant chapter entitled ‘Last Night on The Door’, in which Geoff discusses his final night as a bouncer, his feelings towards to life he led as a doorman for 9 years, and his recollections of his growth and development as a person over those 9 years. He discusses the violence that was once such an enormous presence in his life, and his feelings of pressure and fear that he worked so hard to overcome and control.
Watch my Back is a book about conflict and battle and tells of the struggles that one man has faced in his life, both physical and emotional. It is a book about blood and snot. It is a book about violence. It is also a book about love. It is a book about humour, and life, about trust and loyalty. It is a journey.
“It had been a long journey, I had come a long way. I was tired but very happy. My tour of duty was over, a new life lay ahead. Is violence right? I’d have to say no, it doesn’t do it for me, I don’t ever want to do it again. Would I choose the same way again? You bet your f*****g house I would.”
Watch My Back is recommended highly. It is the tale of a man who overcomes adversity, both physically and emotionally, and it highlights the path of life one man chose to follow. It is a fantastically honest insight into the life of a doorman, spanning his 9 years on the door. It will keep you reading, and enjoying, right until the very last emotion-packed page. I dare you to pick up a copy and not enjoy every page.
(Watch out for the new EXCLUSIVE interview with Geoff Thompson coming to THE SHOTOKAN WAY very soon!!!!)