(2011) The 1970s and early 1980s were renown for the renegades who chronicled the era in both print and film. Dennis Hopper, Martin Scorsese and many others blended art, chemicals and a near complete lack of sleep into art. How they did this would impress both F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway, two legendary literary lushes.
A recent Barnes & Nobles browsing session of the ever decreasing number of motorcycle print magazines found a very big surprise on the back page of Classic Motorcycle Mechanics. An older but very much alive Mark Williams poked out from a photo. This left me with conflicting emotions; I didn’t know whether I should be more surprised that Williams is still writing about bikes, or just that he’s alive.
There are a few remaining scribes still pounding keys today in the motorcycle industry who can claim to be a member in good stead of the ‘rarely slept and took everything’ club from that era. Seemingly, few of them can compare with Mark Williams. In his blog he states he has a “butterfly mind” and like most things Williams his viewpoint is a valuable one to consider. Maybe he wasn’t as fast as Mat Oxley or is as devoted to motorcycle racing as Julian Ryder, but Williams has a very cerebral appeal.
Williams proved himself a gifted writer and brilliant motorcycle media entrepreneur. He started at least three motorcycle magazines and his fragrant writing gained a devout international following in both motorcycle magazines and in the Brit and US rock press where he also penned stories. He chronicled the ‘live-fast’ lifestyle in an early 1980s book, Running Out of Road by living it.
Sometimes a talent like Williams’ is better from afar than up close, though. I’ve never quite discerned whether the decades-old stories that Julian Ryder tells about working with Williams are said in reverence, admiration or frustration.
Live fast and leave a good corpse may be the basis of another earthy storyline, but the inevitable reality of Williams former lifestyle caught up with him. He reportedly spent time in a US prison, but survived it and, judging solely from his on-line profile, he’s clawed back to his prolific writing days. He has a book deal, and is commissioned for several features.
2017 update: Mark Williams has launched a new car magazine. More info here.