Field of Shadows, Dan Waddell's story of an English cricket tour of Nazi Germany, is Cricket Society-MCC Book of the Year for 2015
Novelist and genealogy expert pips strong field
Favourite Wounded Tiger misses out
Another 'snub' for Kevin Pietersen
Journalist and historical novelist Dan Waddell has won the Cricket Society/MCC Book of the Year award for his book about an English cricket team's tour of Nazi Germany - Field of Shadows.
Waddell traces the story of a three-match series played in Berlin in 1937 by a team called the Gentlemen of Worcestershire, a disparate collection of mavericks, minor nobility, ex-county cricketers, rich businessmen and schoolboys led former Worcestershire County Cricket Club skipper Major Maurice Jewell, who agreed to play in unofficial Test matches against Germany, whose Nazi sports minister, Hans von Tschammer und Osten, had hit upon the idea on a visit to Lords.
According to one reviewer, Waddell "maintains a deft balance between amiable cricketing encounters and the encroaching horrors of Nazi Germany in a narrative that blends the amusing, touching and chilling."
Waddell reveals that the Gents would acquit themselves as honourably on the battlefield as they did on the playing fields of Berlin. Peter Huntington-Whiteley, who took three wickets in the space of 10 minutes in one match, became an officer in the Royal Marines. He was killed, according to dispatches, while displaying outstanding bravery at Le Havre soon after D-Day, aged just 24.
The author has a diverse back catalogue that includes Who Do You Think You Are?, the book that accompanied the popular BBC TV series of the same name, and a couple of detective novels in which he draws on his interest in genealogy to bring an intriguing element to the crime solving process.
Field of Shadows, published by Bantam Press, found favour with the judges ahead of five other shortlisted books, including Peter Oborne's highly-regarded history of Pakistan cricket, Wounded Tiger, two books about former England batsman Kevin Pietersen and 10 for 10: Hedley Verity and the Story of Cricket's Greatest Bowling Feat, by previous winner Chris Waters. A paperback edition of the winning title is due out next Thursday.
Waddell collected a £3,000 award, presented by former award winner and Cricket Society President John Barclay during a Long Room dinner at Lord's.
The competition, run by The Cricket Society since 1970 and in partnership with MCC since 2009, is for books nominated by members of both organisations and not publishers. It is highly regarded by writers and publishers, among whom former Wisden editor Scyld Berry hailed the award as "cricket’s seal of literary approval."
The five other books on the shortlist (alphabetically by author) were:
Peter Oborne's Wounded Tiger: The History of Cricket in Pakistan (Simon and Schuster)
Kevin Pietersen’s KP: The Autobiography (Little, Brown)
Christopher Sandford's The Final Over: The Cricketers of Summer 1914 (The History Press)
Chris Waters's 10 for 10: Hedley Verity and the Story of Cricket's Greatest Bowling Feat (Bloomsbury)
Simon Wilde’s On Pietersen (Simon and Schuster)
Buy Field of Shadows: The English Cricket Tour of Nazi Germany 1937, by Dan Waddell