Showing posts from 2014

Some entertainment for Christmas with a serious side in The A-Z of Football Hates

Review Here are a couple of fun titles for the festive season, although neither deserves to be passed over as a mere Christmas frippery. At first glance, The A-Z of Football Hates could easily be dismissed as such, as one of those easy-read gift items that book shops like to group around the pay point in the hope of tempting impulse buys. In fact, while there is plenty of fun to be had in Richard Foster's eclectic collection of things that irritate him about the national game, the author dissects each by way of reasoned critique rather than unstructured rant or sepia-tinted rambling. The writing has a light touch and a sense of humour but there is research to back up the arguments, too. The Definitive Guide to Everything that is Rotten in the Beautiful Game, to give the full subtitle, is as broad in its scope as you would hope for from something claiming to be definitive. Subjects range from the trivial, such as haircuts, coloured boots and Mexican waves, to the rat

Pitch Publishing showing the way for enterprising sports book publishers

It has not been the worst of years for the sports section of the publishing business.  In the lead-in to Christmas, the autobiography of motorcycle racer, TV presenter and all-round speed freak Guy Martin is at around 10th in the list of general best sellers -- ahead of Russell Brand and John Cleese and keeping company with Jamie Oliver's latest must-have cook book -- and of the two sports blockbusters of 2014 Roy Keane has blown Kevin Pietersen out of the water to claim a place in the top 20. Away from the mega-sellers, though, turning a worthwhile profit from a sports book remains a tough challenge, regardless of the quality of the writing.  The big publishing houses have seldom been more cautious about investing in a sports title with many showing little interest in anything that doesn't shout 'guaranteed best seller'. Yet there is one company that remains a beacon of hope for sports authors aspiring or established. Pitch Publishing , the Worthing-based outfit e

Controversial Night Games by Anna Krien is 2014 William Hill Sports Book of the Year

Night Games, a controversial investigation into the ritual abuse of women embedded in Australian sport, has been named the winner of the 26th William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award, the richest and most prestigious literary sports writing prize in the world. Described by the judges as a ‘painstaking, intelligent, but above all, open-minded examination of an immensely complicated area’,  Night Games  follows the trial of an Australian Rules footballer player accused of rape, the outcome of which led author Anna Krien to consider what she describes as the ‘grey area’ of sexual consent. Alyson Rudd, the Times journalist who is one of the judges of the annual award, commented:  “ Night Games  is not about English football but its relevance to the game is all too clear in the context of the conviction for rape of the Sheffield United player Ched Evans. Anna Krien seeks to understand why some sportsmen treat sex as a warped kind of sport in itself and women with little or

Macho world of Australian sport: William Hill prize contender makes disturbing reading

Review Anna Krien's Night Games is easily the most controversial contender for William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2014, because while sport, albeit in Australia, does provides the backdrop, it is as much a book about the sexual abuse of women. The starting point is the trial of a Australian rules footballer accused of rape following a party to celebrate the Melbourne club Collingwood's victory over city rivals St Kilda in the 2010 AFL Grand Final.  Except that the player concerned, given the pseudonym 'Justin Dyer' by the author, is not a member of the victorious team. In reality he is little more than a hanger-on, drawn into the spotlight after the complainant, whom Anna Krien calls 'Sarah Wesley', claims to have been raped in a hotel bedroom by two very high profile Collingwood players.  The incident with Dyer took place in an alleyway later. Dyer was initially called as a witness, only to find himself on trial after the charges against the two sta

Rob Steen and Simon Inglis strike two heavyweight blows for well researched sporting history

Racy tales of scandal and skulduggery and journeys into troubled souls have tended to tick the judges' boxes for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year in recent years, so it is encouraging to see that the 2014 shortlist contains two hefty tomes of thoroughly well researched sporting history. The reason for their presence there is easily explained: both are exceptional pieces of work with an appeal that goes well beyond mere academic interest. Rob Steen's Floodlights and Touchlines: A History of Spectator Sport weighs in at 531 pages of fairly dense type with only one pause for illustrations, which makes it at first glance a daunting prospect.  Yet it has been hailed for the author's lightness of touch in tackling a subject of epic proportions, taking his readers on a journey from gladiatorial Rome to the present day that is heavy on detail yet with many diverting anecdotes. Played in London: Charting the History of a City at Play, Simon Inglis's latest co

Bookie prize contender Proud named on longlist for British Sports Book Awards 2015

Organisers of the British Sports Book Awards have revealed a longlist for the autobiography category for the 2015 awards . It is a 10-book selection that somewhat bows towards the market, with the pre-Christmas bestsellers well represented, among them the controversial autumn blockbusters from former Manchester United captain Roy Keane and exiled England cricketer Kevin Pietersen. The hugely popular autobiography of motorcyclist Guy Martin and the just-released life story of Indian cricket great Sachin Tendulkar also make the list, along with those of cyclists Nicola Cooke and Chris Froome, footballer Rio Ferdinand and golfer Ian Poulter. From the world of rugby, the autobiographies of former Ireland and Lions captain Brian O'Driscoll and Welsh star Gareth Thomas , whose life story Proud is also on the shortlist for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year , to be announced later this month. Proud was ghosted by Michael Calvin, who won last year's overall Book

Will tragic tale of Olympic champion John Curry scoop top prize this time for writer Bill Jones?

Three years after his first book was shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year, Yorkshire writer Bill Jones is again a contender for the richest prize in sports literature. Alone: The Triumph and Tragedy of John Curry is one of seven contenders for the £26,000 cash prize that comes with the title of William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2014. Jones, a former Yorkshire Evening Press journalist who became an award-winning documentary maker during 27 years with Granada Television , has put together the full story previously untold of Britain's 1976 Olympic figure skating champion, who died at the age of only 44 after contracting Aids. Painstakingly researched over three years, it is a moving story about a man who was a deeply troubled and ultimately tragic figure but also a book that pays proper tribute to a competitor of enormous artistic talent and an extraordinary drive to be the best. Jones reveals that Curry turned to skating only after his father, a fa

Bobby Moore: new biography delves beyond the veneer of England's World Cup superhero

In the eyes of his most fervent admirers, Bobby Moore enjoys the status of a deity, his greatness only enhanced by the passage of time and what feels like a forever diminishing likelihood that another England captain will reach the pinnacle Moore attained at Wembley on 30 July, 1966. Some, therefore, have not welcomed Matt Dickinson's new biography of their hero with particular enthusiasm, given the sides of Moore he revealed. Rob Shepherd, the Mail Online football columnist, took exception even with the choice of cover picture: "The image makes England’s original golden boy look more like an east London gangster of the Sixties than an icon of whom Pele said was the best, and most handsome, English footballer he had ever seen or played against."  Throughout his playing career and the life that followed, one that was terminated all too prematurely by cancer, Moore's inherent modesty and reserve enabled him to build and maintain an aura of benign mystery, al

Shortlist announced for William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2014

The shortlist for the 2014 William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award was announced today. After deliberating over the 15 titles named on the longlist at the end of last month, the judges have whittled the field down to seven.  The winner will be announced on November 27.  The shortlisted titles are: Bobby Moore: The Man in Full, by Matt Dickinson (Yellow Jersey Press), in which Times journalist Dickinson explores the sometimes dark personal story behind the sporting success of the World Cup captain. Played in London: Charting the Heritage of a City at Play, by Simon Inglis (English Heritage), in which the author combines his rich knowledge of sport and architecture in a fascinating and wonderfully illustrated history of sport in the capital through the places it has been played. Alone: The Triumph and Tragedy of John Curry, by Bill Jones (Bloomsbury). Writer and documentary maker Bill Jones charts the brilliant, troubled and tragically short life of Olympic skating champio

Impressive cast of top authors appearing at four-day London Festival of Sports Writing

Lord's cricket ground this week hosts an event the organisers hope will become an important annual fixture on the sports books calendar as the home of cricket stages the London Festival of Sports Writing for the second time. A host of authors will take part in four days of fascinating conversation over a series of talks, panel discussions, book signings and masterclasses. Top-of-the-bill Roy Keane's appearance on Saturday evening, when he will be discussing his hard-hitting new autobiography, The Second Half, with co-author Roddy Doyle has already sold out, but there plenty of other opportunities to listen to other authors talking about their work. Brian Moore, the former England and Lions hooker, appears on tomorrow's programme with the Mail on Sunday's Alison Kervin to discuss his latest book, What Goes on Tour Stays on Tour, due out next month, a memoir that happily promises not to live up to its title. Moore, now a columnist and pundit, won the 2010 Wil

Stuck in a Moment: tragic story of Arsenal star Paul Vaessen brilliantly told in new biography

Football is not short of poignant tales of players struck down by injury in their prime, potential unfulfilled, dreams left slowly to evaporate.  Yet it is difficult to imagine one quite so desperately sad as the story of Paul Vaessen, which is retold with great feeling and skill by Stewart Taylor in a brilliant biography. In a career that comprised only 39 first-team appearances, Vaessen scored nine goals for Arsenal, but one of them ensured him a permanent place in the club's history, when he came on as substitute in a European Cup-Winners' Cup semi-final against Juventus in Turin and scored the goal, with two minutes remaining, that put Arsenal into the final, 2-1 on aggregate.  It was the first time the Italian team had lost at home to a British opponent.  Vaessen was an 18-year-old forward suddenly with the world at his feet. Scarcely two years later, after three operations, a knee ligament injured suffered in a north London derby forced him to retire, not yet 21.  

Keane story nudging ahead of Pietersen in battle of the sports biography big hitters

You have to hand it to Roy Keane, he has done his best to steal a few headlines from Kevin Pietersen after the two most controversial sports books of the year appeared in the shops on the same day this week. After sitting back and allowing KP the first round of media calls ahead of the publication of KP: The Autobiography ,  Keane made the most of his chance with a powerful response at the launch of Roy Keane: The Second Half. Both books are already selling in thousands, with online retailer Amazon this afternoon placing them at second and third in their bestsellers chart, with Keane nudging just in front of the former England cricketer.  Only Awful Auntie, a children's novel written by David Walliams, is currently attracting more sales. Keane's big selling point is his scrap with Sir Alex Ferguson, from whom he famously parted on bitter terms after 12 years of enormous success at Old Trafford and who he claims fed deliberate lies to the media in order to discredit hi

If somehow you didn't catch a KP interview, pop along to Cheltenham on Sunday

Just in case anyone has somehow failed to see or hear any of the Kevin Pietersen's interviews promoting his book -- or more accurately giving several former teammates and coaches a good kicking -- there is a chance to witness his anger and dismay close up when the ostracised England batsman appears at the Cheltenham Literature Festival on Sunday (October 12). Pietersen will be talking about his colourful and controversial life and the elements of it that make up KP: The Autobiography in the company of his ghostwriter, the Sunday Times journalist David Walsh, in The Times Forum marquee in Montpellier Gardens. The event begins at 7.30pm and is due to last an hour and a quarter.  Tickets are available from the Festival's own website , priced at £16. Incidentally, setting aside the nature of the content, which will appeal to Pietersen's supporters and confirm to his detractors why they loathe him, the book is superbly written by Walsh, whose style perfectly captures P