Donald McRae 'triple' still on as A Man's World makes shortlist of six for William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2015

Donald McRae's chance to become the first triple winner of William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award remains intact after the shortlist for 27th edition of the richest and longest-running prize for sportswriting was revealed.

The author and Guardian journalist, who has twice won the prize for books with boxing at their heart, returns to the subject with A Man's World, his biography of the US boxer Emile Griffith, who became a world champion while fighting deep-seated prejudices on two counts, not only as a black man but because he was gay at a time when the American Medical Association still regarded homosexuality as a psychiatric disorder.

McRae -- who ghosted Steven Gerrard's bestselling autobiography My Story -- won previously in 1996 with Dark Trade: Lost in Boxing and in 2002 for In Black and White: The Untold Story of Joe Louis and Jesse Owens.

The only other double winner of the William Hill prize is Duncan Hamilton.

Three football books are among the five titles attempting to deny a McRae hat-trick.

Michael Calvin, who helped rugby star Gareth Thomas win this year's Cross Sports Book of the Year with his co-writing of Thomas's autobiography, Proud, makes the shortlist with Living on the Volcano: The Secrets of Surviving as a Football Manager.

Also in contention is Fifty-Six: The Story of the Bradford Fire, written by Martin Fletcher, who survived the 1985 disaster but numbered his father, brother, uncle and grandfather among the 56 who died at Bradford City's Valley Parade ground.

Third in the football trio is David Goldblatt’s The Game of Our Lives, an in-depth look at the modern English football world, how it became the huge business it is and how it reflects Britain's wider society.

Cricket is represented by Simon Lister’s Fire in Babylon, which explores how a game once associated with British Colonialism became an icon of West Indian independence.

Completing the list is Speed Kings, in which Andy Bull tells the story of how four unknown Americans from disparate backgrounds teamed up to win the bobsleigh gold medal at the 1932 Lake Placid Winter Olympics.

The award's co-founder, William Hill veteran Graham Sharpe, reached for a boxing analogy to describe the contest.

“Five brave writers are stepping into the ring with Donald McRae but the outcome is far from certain," he said. "These books represent non-fiction writing at its best, with truly exceptional writers casting light on stories of triumph and tragedy from the world of sport. Our judges have a tough job ahead of them.”

The William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award is the world's longest established and most valuable sportswriting prize. As well as a £27,000 cash prize, the winning author will receive a free £2,500 William Hill bet and a day at the races.

Making up this year's judging panel are: retired player and former chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association Clarke Carlisle; broadcaster and writer John Inverdale; broadcaster Danny Kelly; award-winning journalist Hugh McIlvanney; and columnist and author Alyson Rudd. Chairman of the judging panel is John Gaustad, co-creator of the Award and founder of the Sportspages bookshop.

The winner will be announced at an afternoon reception at BAFTA, in central London, on Thursday November 27.

The six titles in the running to be crowned the winner of the £27,000 prize are as follows (alphabetically by author surname):

  • Speed Kings, by Andy Bull (Bantam Press). Buy from Amazon, Waterstones or WHSmith.
  • Living on the Volcano: The Secrets of Surviving as a Football Manager, by Michael Calvin (Century). Buy from Amazon, Waterstones or WHSmith.
  • Fifty-Six: The Story of the Bradford Fire, by Martin Fletcher (Bloomsbury). Buy from Amazon, Waterstones or WHSmith.
  • The Game of Our Lives: The Meaning and Making of English Football, by David Goldblatt (Viking). Buy from Amazon, Waterstones orWHSmith.
  • Fire in Babylon: How a West Indies Cricket Team Brought a People to its Feet, by Simon Lister (Yellow Jersey). Buy from Amazon, Waterstones or WHSmith.
  • A Man’s World: The Double Life of Emile Griffith, by Donald McRae (Simon & Schuster). Buy from Amazon , Waterstones or WHSmith.


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