2011 British Sports Book Awards


The shortlists have been announced for the ninth British Sports Book Awards, organised by the National Sporting Club. The winners will be named at a ceremony at The Savoy Hotel on 9th May.
The number of categories rises to 10 this year with the introduction of ‘best racing book’ and ‘best sports book retailer’ in addition to best biography and autobiography, best football, cricket and rugby books, best illustrated title, best new writer and best publicity campaign.
After the awards are made, the winners in each category will be entered into a public vote to find the best overall sports book of the year -- a campaign that will be supported by booksellers throughout the country in the run up to Father's Day.
The Sports Bookshelf puts each nomination under the spotlight, with links to selected reviews.

Today’s spotlight is on the Best Autobiography award, for which the candidates are:

Blood, Sweat and Treason, by Henry Olonga (Vision Sports)
No Place to Hide, by Errol Christie (Aurum)
Beware of the Dog, by Brian Moore (Simon and Schuster)
Please Don't Go, by John Hartson (Mainstream)
We Were Young and Carefree, by Laurent Fignon (Yellow Jersey)
My Liverpool Home, by Kenny Dalglish (Hodder & Stoughton)


Blood, Sweat & Treason

Blood, Sweat And Treason tells the story of groundbreaking black Zimbabwe cricketer Henry Olonga's life and career against a backdrop of revolution, independence and a country that gradually spiralled out of control, and how he sacrificed his comfortable position as an international sportsman in protest against president Robert Mugabe’s murderous regime.  Now living in exile In England, branded a traitor in his homeland and stripped of his Zimbabwean citizenship, Olonga tells his extraordinary story in detail -- not just the famous black armband protest at the 2003 cricket World Cup but his early cricketing career in a rapidly changing Zimbabwe, the terrifying experience when he was car-jacked in Harare and his two year dispute with his Zimbabwe team-mates after a row about racism in the dressing room. Also shortlisted for 'Best Cricket Book'.

“He tells his story with candour and no little wisdom. Unlike many player autobiographies filled with inanities and self-delusion, this is a wonderfully candid account of a career that promised much but delivered only a handful of highlights reels. Olonga's self-deprecation doesn't ring hollow, and his assessment of many of his peers is clear-eyed without being tinged with malice.”
--- Dileep Premachandran, Cricinfo   Read more


A European middleweight champion in his amateur days, Errol Christie was one of the most promising British boxers of his generation, a poster boy for the popular ITV show Fight Night. But in 1985, after a string of professional knockouts, his professional career went into a downward spiral after he was beaten at Wembley by Mark Kaylor, a white fighter from the East End of London, in a brutal bout with deeply racial undertones.  But this is not the story of a celebrity sportsman down on his luck.  If it is a story about fighting, it is also about the kind that took place on the streets of Coventry in the late 1970s, a tough time and place to grow up if you were poor and black. Even when he reached what he saw then as ’the big time’ as a professional boxer, Christie discovered that black fighters had to play by white rules. Now a campaigner against knife and gun crime, Christie told his story to journalist Tony McMahon.

“This book is about a whole generation of black British people in the 70s whose stories have not been told. They were the generation after the Windrush that really said: ‘No, we’re not going to accept being pushed around. For people like Errol, it was one long fight. If he wasn’t fighting in the ring, he was fighting on the street.”
--- co-author Tony McMahon, Coventry Evening Telegraph.   Read More


Beware of the Dog: Rugby's Hard Man Reveals All

Already acknowledged as a fine work by winning the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award for 2010, the former England rugby hooker‘s searingly honest and candid life story tracks the highs and lows of a highly successful rugby career but goes much further, revealing painful memories of sexual abuse suffered as a schoolboy and the feelings of rejection he encountered as an adopted child, as well as later battles with depression and drink.  Brian Moore, or 'Pitbull' as he came to be known, established himself as one of the game's hard men and has subsequently earned a reputation as an equally uncompromising commentator, never afraid to tell it as he sees it. Also on the shortlist for 'Best Rugby Book'.

Moore reveals that his years with England and the Lions were riven with self-doubt, and the evident relish with which he recalls acts of violence on the pitch is somewhat disturbing. It didn't get any better after he stopped playing; he is eloquent about the uncertainty and sense of loss retirement can provoke.
--- Simon Redfern, The Independent   Read more


Please Don't Go: Big John's Journey Back to Life

John Hartson talks frankly about his battle with testicular cancer and how it almost cost him his life after he put off seeing a doctor for three years despite finding suspicious lumps.  Only when he began to develop severe headaches did he seek help, by which time the cancer had spread to his lungs and brain.  Hartson describes the gruelling series of 11 operations, the radiotherapy and the 67 cycles of chemotherapy he underwent before confounding doctors by recovering from the disease.  Proceeds from the book have helped fund the John Hartson Foundation, which the former Arsenal, Celtic and Wales striker set up to raise awareness of testicular cancer.

This is a well written and very traumatic account of a high profile battle against cancer, covering more than one version of the story. It truly is an inspiration to anyone who has suffered any form of the disease and most importantly, gives an insight into the dangers of not seeking medical help when required.
--- Mike Godfrey, Suite 101 Read more


We Were Young and Carefree: The Autobiography of Laurent Fignon

A poignant entry, given that Laurent Fignon died from cancer last August, having handed over the manuscript before he was diagnosed. Fignon was one of the giants of modern cycling, twice winner of Tour de France in the early eighties, yet better known, arguably, for the one he lost, in 1989.  It was one of the most fiercely-contested Tours of all time but at the end of the 3,285-kilometre epic he was beaten by his American arch-rival, Greg LeMond, by an agonising eight seconds on the final Parisian time trial.  Fignon gives cycling fans a tantalising glimpse behind the scenes of the friendships, the rivalries, the betrayals, the scheming, the parties, the girls, and, of course, the performance-enhancing drugs. William Fotheringham's translation is, like Fignon himself, elegant and vivid.

Written in an intimate, almost conversational style, Fignon's way of telling his story sucks you in, makes you feel you're being confided in. The insouciant charm with which he tells his tale makes the book a delight to read.  But that charm can be quite beguiling. It makes you forget about the things he is not telling you. For all the intimacy and the apparent openness, this is the story of Laurent Fignon the cyclist. The other Laurent Fignon, the real Laurent Fignon, is still hiding from view.
--- Podium Café  Read more


Even before his triumphant return to be manager for the second time, Kenny Dalglish’s relationship with Liverpool was already established as an enduring football love story, which began to grow from the moment he set foot in the Anfield dressing room after joining from Celtic in 1977. It was reciprocated by the Liverpool fans, who will never forget the goals and trophies, most especially the three European Cups, nor perhaps even more the way he held the club together through two tragedies, the first at the Heysel stadium in Brussels in 1985 and then at Hillsborough in 1989. Both disasters are explored at length and in emotional detail by Dalglish, who spells out the agony behind his decision to resign for the sake of his health and his family.

Dalglish’s contagious passion and warmth for his teammates – a number of whom became close friends – courses through My Liverpool Home. Right from a list of their nicknames to their tomfoolery, Dalglish displays abundant sincerity, generosity and excitement.
-- Natha Kumar, The Star (Malaysia)  Read more

See the shortlists for Best BiographyBest Football Book,  Best Cricket BookBest Rugby BookBest Racing Book and Best New Writer. 



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