Procrastination brings the rich talent of the incomparable Russell Bulgin into focus
Desperate to find any excuse not to face the keyboard, I picked up a 1991 edition of Car magazine and started browsing.
To be fair, Car was probably already in the process of peaking by the time the magazine I came across was produced, but if all you did was look at their ‘Frontline’ columnists, you’d know it still drew from a deep and rich pool of talent. There, over many thousands of words every month, you could download the collected wisdom of LJK Setright, George Bishop, Phil Llewellin and Russell Bulgin. Extraordinary.
I knew them all, but most not well. Bishop revelled in the role of curmudgeon, while Llewellin was his polar opposite. Setright was as lunatic at the wheel as he was gifted at the typewriter and Bulgin was simply the best motoring writer of his generation.
Of course I mean ‘our’ generation because were he still with us, Russell would only be 53. Shockingly, cancer took him 10 years ago this June.
Of that generation of Frontliners, Russell was the only one I knew well. He was also the only established freelancer I met who didn’t try to dissuade me from pursuing a similar path. Instead he sat me down and explained: “It’s quite simple really: write to length, to brief and on time.” It’s a mantra I live by to this day.
How good was Russell? Good enough for friends closer than me to publish a small book of his greatest work in aid of the Royal Marsden Hospital who’d cared for him during his illness. Bulgin: The very best of Russell Bulgin is hard to find these days and expensive when you do, but is more densely packed with pure writing talent than any motoring book I know. Failing that, you could just buy old issues of Car and read the words of Russell and his Frontline colleagues for pennies. They’re all gone now, but their words will outlive us all.