A Tale of Ten Wickets

Published: 1994
Pages: 119
Author: Heller, Richard
Publisher: Oval Publishing
Rating: 3 stars

A Tale of Ten Wickets

Writers of fiction don’t tackle cricket very often, it seems – it’s often said that the drama of real-life encounters can surpass anything in a novelist’s imagination – and when they do it’s not always with success. When I was last asked to review a work of fiction for Cricket Web I had to contend with a book whose cricket content was confined within the first hundred of its 500-plus pages, so it was with no great enthusiasm that I opened a parcel containing two such books by former Mail on Sunday and Times columnist Richard Heller.

I need not have been sceptical, however – this is an unusual and diverting little book. What we have here, in the first and much briefer of the two, is a collection of short stories bound by the narrative of a cricket match. A travelling photographer falls asleep in the scorer’s hut at the home ground of the Frenetics CC. Awakened by the scorer shortly before the start of the match, he asks to take some shots of the team and as he does so, the scorer relates each player’s story to him.

The players are often connected off the field, so for instance aspiring writer Pat Hobby is, as usual, trying to pitch a screenplay to TV boss Arthur Fraser (the story of how Fraser becomes head honcho at Mega TV is the first to be told, and one of the best). Some of the characters are less well fleshed out than others, and not being a poker player made it difficult for me to follow one story, but there is plenty of human interest here and the cricket scenes are particularly convincing, while the short chapters make it ideal tea-break reading.

While it could not be called indispensable this is well worth looking out for as it will amuse the reader during the journey to the ground, in the lunch interval, or, as the writer suggests, when rain stops play. Richard Heller later wrote a much longer book, using many of the characters from this one, about which more shortly.

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