Heavyweights slug it out for title hat-trick

Donald McRae and Duncan Hamilton both named on shortlist for William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2019

Duncan Hamilton
Duncan Hamilton
Two of British sports writing’s biggest names are among a shortlist of six titles from which the 2019 William Hill Sports Book of the Year will be chosen in early December.

Donald McRae and Duncan Hamilton, the only authors to have won the award twice in its 30-year history, both made the final cut after the award’s judging panel whittled down a longlist of 14 to come up with their final selection.

South African-born McRae, whose in-depth interviews are an outstanding feature of The Guardian newspaper’s sports pages, won the judges’ vote with Dark Trade: Lost in Boxing in 1996, and with In Black and White: The Untold Story of Joe Louis and Jesse Owens in 2002.

Hamilton, born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, raised in Nottingham and now an adoptive Yorkshireman, was successful in 2007 with Provided You Don't Kiss Me: 20 Years With Brian Clough, and again two years later with his biography of ‘Bodyline’ fast bowler Harold Larwood.

Donald McRae
Donald McRae
McRae is in contention for this year’s £30,000 cash prize with In Sunshine or in Shadow: How Boxing Brought Hope in the Troubles, published by Simon & Schuster, which charts trainer Gerry Storey’s experience training both Republican and Loyalist boxers – including future world champion Barry McGuigan - at the height of unrest in Northern Ireland, in spite of the grave personal jeopardy he would face.

Hamilton makes the shortlist with The Great Romantic: Cricket and the Golden Age of Neville Cardus (Hodder & Stoughton), an affectionate story of how a child born into an impoverished and dysfunctional background in Manchester defied his circumstances to become one of the most influential sports writers of all time.

The other titles chosen for final consideration are Adharanand Finn’s latest exploration into long distance running - Rise of the Ultra Runners: A Journey to the Edge of Human Endurance (Faber & Faber); Lara Prior Palmer’s spirited recollection of unexpectedly claiming victory, at just 19 years old, at the 1000km Mongol derby of 2013 in Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Wildest Horse Race (Penguin Random House); Position of Trust: A Football Dream Betrayed (Hodder & Stoughton), whose author Andy Woodward was one of the first to bring to light the child sex abuse scandal that has shamed the footballing world; and Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump (Headline Publishing Group), in which author Rick Reilly exposes the widely acknowledged and damaging duplicity behind the 45th US President’s success on the golf course.

Chair of the judging panel Alyson Rudd, the author and sports journalist, commented: “From another strong longlist, we now have an exceptional ‘Big Six’ going forward to the final stage, and the race really is wide open.

“This year’s shortlist not only showcases the often eye-opening struggles and solace that can accompany sporting achievement, but also provides astonishing insight into the complexity of the protagonists. Above all, the writing is impressive, ranging from assured to witty to deeply moving.”

The other members of judging panel are retired footballer and former chairman of the Professional Footballer’s Association Clarke Carlisle; five-time Olympic medallist and rower Dame Katherine Grainger; broadcaster and writer John Inverdale; broadcaster Danny Kelly and journalist and broadcaster Mark Lawson.

The winner of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2019 will be announced at an afternoon reception at The Royal Horseguards Hotel on Thursday December 5.



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