Showing posts from 2016

William Finnegan's surfing tour de force Barbarian Days adds the Bookie Prize to his Pulitzer Prize

WILLIAM HILL SPORTS BOOK OF THE YEAR 2016 The winner is announced Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life. By William Finnegan (Corsair) £9.99 William Finnegan  (centre) shows off the 2016 William Hill  Sports Book of the Year Award, flanked by (left-to-right)  judges Graham Sharpe, Alyson Rudd, Hugh McIlvanney, Mark Lawson, John Inverdale and Clarke Carlisle. Surfing memoir Barbarian Days, described as “compelling, elegiac and profound” by the chair of the judging panel, has won the 2016 William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award for American author William Finnegan. The book, which has already won a Pulitzer Prize for the veteran New Yorker magazine writer, tells the story of Finnegan life through the prism of his 50-year obsession with surfing, from his childhood days in California and Hawaii to the present day. Barbarian Days beat a particularly strong field to land the £28,000 cash prize that goes with the award, which also comes with a leather-bound commemorative cop

The remarkable story of how long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad completed the Cuba-to-Florida epic challenge at the age of 64

WILLIAM HILL SPORTS BOOK OF THE YEAR 2016 On the Shortlist Find a Way: One Untamed and Courageous Life By Diana Nyad (Knopf Publishing Group), £16.99 Review by Jon Culley Diana Nyad, pictured earlier this year at a sports psychology conference in Phoenix This is the book that Hillary Clinton apparently said would remain by her side throughout her campaign to be President, as a source of inspiration. Diana Nyad excelled at open water swimming. In 1975 she swam the entire 28 mile (45km) circumference of the island of Manhattan in a world record time and in 1978, on her 30th birthday, swam the 102 miles (164km) from the Bahamas to Florida. This despite suffering abuse at the hands of both her stepfather and a swimming coach as an adolescent, and spending three months in hospital with a heart infection. When she retired from competitive swimming, she pursued a successful career that combined journalism, broadcasting and motivational speaking among other things. B

Giving the game away - how England's coaching missionaries taught the world how to beat us at football

WILLIAM HILL SPORTS BOOK OF THE YEAR 2016 On the Shortlist Mister: The Men Who Taught the World How to Beat England at Their Own Game By Rory Smith (Simon & Schuster), £18.99 Review by Jon Culley Alan Rogers during his days as coach of the Iranian team Persepolis Big-name interviews sell newspapers, we are always told.  But how often does a star player tell you anything you did not already know? Football is a micro-managed business these days, with minders and media advisers never far away. It is why Times journalist Rory Smith admits the stories he most enjoys writing are often the less obvious ones, with interview subjects who may seem obscure on the face of it but frequently come with a fascinating back story waiting to be told. So when a friend drew his attention to a story in Southport's local paper about a belated honour for a war hero his curiosity was instantly piqued. The war hero was Alan Rogers, who had as a teenager served as a gunner on a Roy

Will this fast-paced history of horse racing's greatest bloodline turn out to be the 'bookie prize' favourite?

WILLIAM HILL SPORTS BOOK OF THE YEAR 2016 On the Shortlist Mr Darley's Arabian: High Life, Low Life, Sporting Life: A History of Racing in 25 Horses. By Christopher McGrath (John Murray) £25.00 Review by Jon Culley Chris McGrath's book covers 300 years of racing history In the early part of the 18th century, when the landscape and politics of the Middle East was rather different from today, a gentleman merchant by the name of Thomas Darley, working for the Levant Company in Aleppo, acquired a horse. It was a bay colt, taller than the average Arabian horse.  In a letter to his brother in 1703, Darley noted that it was strikingly handsome and "with an exceedingly elegant carriage". He bought it for his father, Richard, with plans to take it back to the family's country seat, Aldby Park, not far from the village of Stamford Bridge in the East Riding of Yorkshire. In some accounts, it has been suggested that Darley came across the animal after reviv

Will it be third time lucky for Times man Rick Broadbent with his wonderful story of the magnificent runner Emil Zátopek?

WILLIAM HILL SPORTS BOOK OF THE YEAR 2016 On the Shortlist Endurance: The Extraordinary Life and Times of Emil Zátopek By Rick Broadbent (Wisden Sports Writing) £16.99 Review by Jon Culley Emil Z á topek in action in the 5,000 metres in London in 1948 Rick Broadbent comes to the table with a bit of form, having been shortlisted twice before without convincing the judges he was worthy of the prize.  Having been unlucky with Ring of Fire in 2009 and That Near Death Thing in 2012, he switches from sport on two wheels to two legs, swapping motorcycle racing for distance running. Emil Zátopek's world records have all been overtaken now but his status as the world's greatest long-distance runner, possibly the greatest athlete across all distances, remains intact. Long before the cheats came along to rob athletics of its innocence and purity, Zátopek was causing crowds to look on with wide-eyed incredulity at what he was able to do.  At the peak of his powers, b

Barbarian Days: A brilliant story of a life that evolved alongside an enduring obsession with surfing. But can it be judged as a sports book?

WILLIAM HILL SPORTS BOOK OF THE YEAR 2016 On the Shortlist Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life. By William Finnegan (Corsair) £9.99 Review by Jon Culley William Finnegan won a Pulitzer Prize for Barbarian Days Award-winning books have often been contenders for more than one prize and sometimes arrive in the hands of the judges having already impressed another group somewhere else, with their stamp of approval staring at them from the cover. In those instances, rival authors might feel disadvantaged, understandably.  This year, the six others on the shortlist for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year may well feel they have to clear a particularly high bar given that William Finnegan already has a Pulitzer Prize under his belt for Barbarian Days. His memoir of a life spent chasing waves around the world won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for biography and autobiography.  The Pulitzers, first awarded in 1917 to recognize outstanding journalism, now has 21 categories and none

Chasing Shadows: who was the real Peter Roebuck and what happened to make him fall to his death from a hotel window?

WILLIAM HILL SPORTS BOOK OF THE YEAR 2016 On the shortlist: Chasing Shadows: The Life and Death of Peter Roebuck. by Tim Lane and Elliot Cartledge (Hardie Grant) Review by Jon Culley Peter Roebuck: Journalist was  being questioned by police On November 12, 2011, Peter Roebuck returned to his hotel in Cape Town, having watched Australia humbled by South Africa in an extraordinary Test match at Newlands, which he had been reporting for the Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. According to witnesses, Roebuck, a brilliant writer and commentator but as an individual something of an enigma, was reportedly in good spirits.  Waiting for him in the lobby of the hotel, however, were two police officers. They were investigating an accusation of sexual assault made against Roebuck by a Zimbabwean man whom he had supposedly met at the same hotel a few days earlier. The officers accompanied Roebuck to his sixth-floor room to talk to him about

Adrian Doherty - the story of the lost genius who was tipped to be the brightest star of Manchester United's golden generation

WILLIAM HILL SPORTS BOOK OF THE YEAR 2016 On the shortlist: Forever Young: The Story of Adrian Doherty - Football's Lost Genius. By Oliver Kay (Quercus) Review by Jon Culley Tales of rising stars robbed of the chance to fulfil their potential are not new but Oliver Kay's story of the fame that fate denied to Adrian Doherty stands out from the crowd. Doherty, a former apprentice at Manchester United, was a genuine phenomenon, even among a clutch of young players as gifted as those United were nurturing in the late 1980s. The names that would become known as United's golden generation - Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Nicky Butt and the Neville brothers - were united in their awe of him, a player whose natural ball skills were allied to lightning pace and a fearless attitude that belied his rather shy persona. Sir Alex Ferguson knew within 15 minutes of first setting eyes on him that he wanted to sign him.  He offered him a five-year contract befo

And then there were seven - shortlist revealed for William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2016

The shortlist for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award – the world’s richest and longest-running prize for sports writing – has been revealed following the deliberations of the judging panel, who have whittled down a longlist of 17 to a shortlist of seven. Six sports are represented on the list, the majority sharing a common theme in that they dig deep into the psyche of their subjects, showing how their strengths and weaknesses helped and hindered them in the pursuit of their dreams. This is demonstrated in two memoirs set against the backdrop of the sea - Barbarian Days, by journalist William Finnegan, and Find a Way, by swimmer Diana Nyad. Barbarian Days, surfing’s first appearance in the 'Bookie Prize' field and already a Pulitzer Prize-winner, tells the story of a restless young man whose sport both anchors him and takes him around the world as he becomes an adult. Diana Nyad’s memoir is a testimony to the indomitability of the human spirit: a wor

No Nonsense: Joey Barton's autobiography on the William Hill Sports Book of the Year longlist after just one day in the shops

Joey Barton Controversial footballer Joey Barton's autobiography No Nonsense has been included on the longlist for the 2016 William Hill Sports Book of the Year even though it was published only yesterday. Written in collaboration with Michael Calvin, the award-winning author and sports journalist, Barton's book promises to deliver a candid account of a life never far from the headlines on and off the field. Calvin is the third writer to work with the player, who began the project in 2014 with Times journalist Matthew Syed and made one attempt to write it himself, which he did not sustain beyond nine chapters. There is much detail, some of it quite harrowing, about his upbringing in hard-edged working class Liverpool, where many of his associates and even family members were involved in crime at one level or another.  His brother, Michael, and his cousin, Paul Taylor, are serving jail sentences for the murder of an innocent black teenager. The book has no short