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Isle of Man TT Memoir: ‘Riding Man’

Motorcycle Racing Books

The first edition of Mark Gardiner’s Isle of Man TT racing memoir "Riding Man" has nearly sold out, but is a feature film project in the works?

Almost 10 years ago, Mark Gardiner quit his job, sold everything he owned, and moved to the Isle of Man to see if a completely ordinary motorcyclist could qualify for the famed TT races.

He did, and his story was told in a well-received documentary film, One Man’s Island. A few years later, Gardiner published a memoir of those events, called Riding Man.

It has become a cult book among motorcyclists, selling without any advertising or store presence.

Mark Gardiner says: "It’s all word-of-mouth. I have one reader in New Jersey who just bought seven copies, so he can give one to each of his riding buddies. That’s how it goes."

Now, the first edition of the book is on the verge of selling out.

Mark Gardiner says: "I’ve already shipped Amazon its last carton. They’ll sell out within a few days. My other distributors have also been sent their final shipments and I imagine Rider’s Wearhouse will be OK through Christmas. I’ve held back the last few cartons so that, for a while at least, people who want signed and inscribed copies will be able to buy them from me at ridingman.com."

Gardiner plans to release an electronic version of Riding Man early in the New Year. "If you get a Kindle or an iPad for Christmas. I hope to have Riding Man available for download soon."

The e-reader version will include a chapter that was cut from the print version at the last minute.

Mark Gardiner says: "Riding Man is about as un-Hollywood as it could be, and in the original manuscript, there was a chapter written in screenplay format, which reconfigures the climax – such as it is – as Hollywood would see it. That chapter ends with a note directly from me to the reader telling him, ‘If you fell for this, you’ve learned nothing over the last hundred and sixty pages!’"

Ironically, last summer Gardiner was approached by Tom Guttry, a Hollywood insider and an avid motorcyclist who fell in love with the story. Guttry asked if the film rights for Riding Man were available, and when he learned that they were, he set up a meeting between Gardiner and Mark Clayman, who was the executive producer of the Will Smith film ‘Pursuit of Happyness.’

Mark Gardiner says: "Frankly, I don’t know who was more skeptical that Riding Man could survive in Hollywood, Clayman or me. But after bouncing it around for a few hours, I agreed to go home to Kansas City and write a treatment for a feature based on Riding Man."

That synopsis, which includes material left out of the book – weaving in aspects of Gardiner’s life before and after his time on the Isle of Man; new characters; and things that happened to other people – has been getting positive industry feedback.

Clayman’s currently pitching it in Hollywood and New York. Gardiner says he’ll reprint Riding Man if Clayman succeeds in attracting financing for the film.

Mark Gardiner says: "The TT’s really caught a second wind in the last few years. The HD coverage on Discovery has created whole new TT cult in the U.S., and the time’s right for a mainstream film about it. I know the Isle of Man will cooperate, too."

Gardiner’s also circulating a separate feature film screenplay based on the British Army motorcycle team’s escape from the Nazis during the 1939 ISDT.

More information: ridingman.com.

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