New Books – An Overview for December 2010

New Books - An Overview for December 2010

As on previous occasions I will begin this piece with a look at a few books that have appeared since my July article, and which I was not aware of at the time. The bulk of the article will then look at what is due to appear next year. All the individuals mentioned in past overviews have helped with information and I do not propose to name everyone again. That said I do need to mention specifically our gratitude to Roger Page, partly for his kindly agreeing to provide us with a review of Bill Francis’ recent biography of Tom Lowry, but also for his pro-active assistance with those parts of the this article that deal with publications originating from the Southern Hemisphere.

Moving then to the books themselves an important biography is The Last Everyday Hero: The Bert Sutcliffe Story, that was published in New Zealand in August and is a life of the lefthander who was undoubtedly one of the finest batsmen his country has produced. At the time of Sutcliffe’s death in 2001 writer Rod Nye, who had already written a fine biography of Martin Donnelly, was working with his subject on the book. Nye himself died, with the project unfinished, in 2004. Richard Boock then picked up Nye’s research and partially completed manuscript and put together what I understand is a fitting tribute to Sutcliffe.

Another book about New Zealand cricket, in which Sutcliffe plays a leading role, is What are you doing out here?. It is a wonderful little book, readily available in the UK where its author now lives, and I have to apologise to Norman Harris for overlooking it before now. For most remarkable cricket matches the reason for the use of the description is clear from its scorecard. The bare statistics for the second Test between New Zealand and South Africa that began at Ellis Park, Johannesburg on Christmas Eve 1953 contain no such clues, but the story of that match, and that of the Tangiwai Rail disaster that, as the match began, claimed the lives of 151 people, including the fiancee of New Zealand pace bowler Bob Blair, are skilfully and movingly drawn together.

Also from New Zealand has come Shane Bond’s long awaited autobiography Looking Back. Had injury problems not conspired to permit Bond just 18 Test matches who knows what he might have achieved in the game and his book certainly should be one of the better ones of its type.

In Australia Ken Piesse, writer, broadcaster, raconteur and book dealer, has produced his 61st and 62nd books. The former is Brad Hodge: The Little Master, a slim volume published in a signed limited edition that is best described as an appreciation rather than a full blown biography. The latter is a much more substantial volume entitled Great Australian Cricket Stories which gathers together stories about games of cricket and cricketers stretching back over a period of 150 years. Those whose writings are showcased include famous players like Monty Noble, Bert Oldfield, Keith Miller and Kerry O’Keeffe as well as those who loved the game like renowned bush poet C. J. Dennis, and the evergreen comic strip hero Ben Bowyang.

In South Africa Herschelle Gibbs autobiography, To The Point, has emerged amidst a blaze of publicity centred around its more salacious revelations. It is to be hoped that issues of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll do not dominate the book. The highs and lows of Gibbs’ cricketing career should be quite capable of producing an engrossing story without the need to sensationalize his off duty activities and those of his teammates.

Stephen Chalke’s Fairfield Books have recently published three new titles. We have already reviewed A Long Half Hour by the man himself, which is everything we have come to expect from him. His other book, When I’m 62, is a distinct departure. I have not yet had the pleasure of reading the book so will quote the author’s summary Philip Stone’s father played a last game of cricket at 62. ‘He wasn’t fit,’ Stone’s mother said. ‘He made a complete fool of himself.’ Now Stone himself has turned 62 – and he too is still playing cricket. ‘Am I making a fool of myself?’ he wonders. He captains a team in the Wiltshire League, thirty miles from his childhood home. His diary records the story of his summer, interwoven with memories of his years of growing up. On the surface this is a warm and witty book about the game’s lower depths, but below that surface there is love and loss, youth and ageing – and some disturbing memories. Past and present blend together, creating a book that is sometimes funny, sometimes moving. Fairfield’s third book, Footsteps from East Coker is not really a cricket book at all but still worthy of mention. It is a volume of reminiscences from David Foot, veteran cricket writer and a favourite amongst the review team here, who is noted in particular as the author of acclaimed biographies of Harold Gimblett and Walter Hammond.

A couple of historical books have come my way in recent weeks. Veteran writer Eric Midwinter has written From Meadowland to Mumbai the publisher’s blurb says he ….. draws on some 70 years watching and almost as long reading and studying cricket to produce this fascinating account of the game in its full historical context …….. he stylishly guides the reader from a thoughtful and sometimes amusing discussion of the theorising about the origins of the game to a shrewd analysis of the power of finance and television ………. it is not holiday reading for the casual reader – but it is essential – and immensely enjoyable – reading for the genuine student and lover of cricket. To date I have only been able to read the chapter on WG Grace, but that certainly indicates that the summary I have quoted is fully justified.

The second historical work is Magnificent Seven by Andrew Collomosse. The book looks back at the swinging sixties and the great Yorkshire team that won nine trophies in seven years. The side contained the likes of Brian Close, Ray Illingworth, Geoff Boycott and Fred Trueman amongst a host of Test players. This one I have had the pleasure of reading in full and a review will appear in the New Year. It is an excellent example of how to breathe life into a look at times past.

In years to come Dylan Cleaver’s Brendon McCullum: Inside Twenty20 will by definition become part of the game’s historical record. It is, as the title suggests, a publication from New Zealand that examines the “hit and giggle” version of the game, centred around one of its leading exponents. A more sedately paced New Zealand publication that has just been released is A Tingling Catch – A Century Of New Zealand Cricket Poems, edited by Mark Pirie.

Moving on to next year I will start with biographical works. April will see the publication of a new book about Sir Jack Hobbs by Leo McKinstrey. The publishers describe the book, which will be titled Jack Hobbs: England’s Greatest Cricketer as the first comprehensive biography of Hobbs, and although I suspect that Ronald Mason and John Arlott might challenge that assertion were either of them still with us, it certainly appears that, at 400 pages, it will be a much weightier tome than anything that has gone before. It will be interesting to see what McKinstrey makes of The Master. His previous cricket book, a well received biography of Geoffrey Boycott, concerned a cricketer who was never far from controversy whether in relation to on field or off field activities. Hobbs was a totally different sort of man. He was universally liked and respected and it was only his genius as a batsman that ever kept the headline writers occupied. How McKinstrey deals with the very different challenges Hobbs presents will be interesting and, for this reviewer at least, this is one of the most eagerly awaited titles of 2011.

Mike Vockins, secretary of Worcestershire for thirty years, and to my certain recollection the writer of at least one book on that county, has written a biography of Arthur Milton, who spent over a quarter of a century playing for near neighbours Gloucestershire. The comments I made in the above paragraph about Jack Hobbs’ popularity apply equally to Milton. A number of short pieces by Stephen Chalke have whetted my appetite for more of his story and I am looking forward to reading about a man whose sporting versatility was his greatest virtue. Arthur Milton: Last of the Double Internationals should be with us in May.

The most unexpected volume of autobiography is Duckworth Lewis: The Men and the Method Behind It which is due for an April release. The stories of two statisticians and the development of their formula for fairness in the resolution of rain affected limited overs matches seems to be a somewhat improbable basis for a full length book. That said their publisher, Sportsbooks , have an excellent track record which makes me believe that Messrs Duckworth and Lewis must have an interesting story to tell.

Scheduled for release in October next year is the autobiography of Philip De Freitas. Daffy: My Life in Cricket will tell the story of a man who was a great servant of England, Leicestershire, Lancashire and Derbyshire and if his Test record is, in the final analysis, slightly disappointing, that is primarily a reflection of the, with hindsight, unrealistic expectations that accompanied him on his first England tour, the successful defence of the Ashes in 1986/87. His career had plenty of highs, some lows, and there were a number of controversies along the way. Co-author Derek Clements helped make Henry Olonga’s autobiography one of the best cricket books of 2010, and I am hopeful he will use the raw material that Daffy will give him to provide us with another masterpiece.

Former England captain Tony Greig will be the subject of Tony Greig: A Reappraisal of English Cricket’s Most Controversial Captain by David Tossell. Tossell is certainly familiar with Greig having published Grovel in 2007, a fine retrospective account of the 1976 West Indies tour. For this project he is fortunate to have had the full cooperation of his subject without Greig seeking to have any influence over the content of the finished product. Greig’s selection for England in the first place, and more so his subsequent appointment as captain, were unpopular with many older cricket lovers due to his South African birth. He did not then help himself in that quarter by his subsequent defection to Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket, but the aggressive and fearless cricket that he played in England’s cause should not be forgotten and, like another man with Scottish connections, Douglas Jardine, his reputation has been done no harm by the passage of time.

Of the books I suggested were in preparation last year Simon Wilde’s biography of our national icon Ian Botham: The Power and the Glory is due in April and I believe Chris Waters biography of Fred Trueman will appear at some point during the year.

Thanks to its Lives In Cricket series the Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians is well worth keeping an eye on. Next in the series, the seventeenth in all, is former Warwickshire and England all rounder Frank Foster. Quite why biographers have ignored Foster for as long as they have is a mystery. He was just 22 when, in 1911, he captained Warwickshire to the County Championship, the first time a county from outside the so-called “big six” had finished first. In 1911/12 his bowling was a major contribution to the Ashes being regained. Sadly however the mercurial talent fell to earth, literally, when the effect of injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident in 1915 ended his playing days. He was a failure in the family menswear business, his marriage faltered, and he separated from his wife and children. He took to hanging around Soho and in time was adjudged bankrupt and committed fraud. His mental health deteriorated in the process and Foster died in a psychiatric hospital in 1958. As if that were not enough material for his biographer to work with he was also one of the men who Douglas Jardine consulted about what was to become bodyline. Foster was horrified when he found out to what use his advice had been put and took every opportunity to express his views, at one stage even making a gramophone record.

After Foster the remaining Lives In Cricket will inevitably be less exciting but hopefully will be no less worthwhile. Those expected include Frank Sugg , the Lancashire sporting all rounder and businessman and long serving Glamorgan (and briefly Sussex and Northamptonshire) swing bowler Jack Mercer. Also due are lives of the Victorian Surrey and England stalwart Walter Read and Maurice Tompkin. Tompkin’s is a name rarely mentioned today but he was a reliable batsman for Leicestershire for a decade after World War Two, and also enjoyed a successful career as a professional footballer – he died in 1956, aged only 37. In addition there will be a variation on the usual format as Keith Walmsley is writing about men who played just one First Class match. I know that Frederick Hyland, whose entire career consisted of just two overs, will be featured in the book – as for the others I will be interested to see if those whose names appear are, like Hyland, the delightfully obscure or, like Sir Geoff Hurst, men whose claims to fame and success lie in other fields – perhaps a combination of the two is most likely.

Among other ACS publications, mainly statistical no doubt, will be a historical one on Bank Holiday cricket down the years by John Shawcroft. Shawcroft is an excellent writer who I suspect has not previously had a mention from CricketWeb. I remedy that now and, while it takes us off at a tangent in a manner I do not intend to make a habit of, I will recommend his excellent 2006 book Local Heroes, on the unfairly neglected story of Derbyshire?s 1936 season and the men who helped them to their only County Championship.

Another historical work is The Twirly Men by Amol Rajan which is subtitled “The Unlikely History of Cricket’s Greatest Spin Bowlers”. Little is genuinely new in cricket publishing and studies of slow bowling have been published before. David Frith’s The Slow Men is probably the outstanding example, but Trevor Bailey and Fred Trueman with Spinner’s Web and Patrick Murphy with Spinner’s Turn carried out similar exercises during the great cricket book boom of the 1980’s. Of course the art of spin bowling has all but died and been reborn since those men wrote on the subject so there should be plenty of fresh material from which Rajan can work some magic of his own.

Anthologies have always been popular cricketing publications whether they showcase one man’s work or have some other theme. I suspect it may be unique to find a former Test cricketer, who has spent less than a decade in the press box, having produced enough material of sufficient quality to fill a book, but I have little doubt that Michael Atherton will, in Glorious Summers and Discontents, succeed in that. The curmudgeonly Atherton of the 1990s was one of my favourite cricketers. His transition to one of the games most incisive and, when he wants to be, most amusing commentators/writers, was seamless and my enthusiam for his work is undiminished. Glorious Summers and Discontents has the potential to be one of the best books of its type in years.

New accounts of tours long past are, in this reviewer’s opinion, a fine idea and such books, with all the benefits that hindsight brings, seldom disappoint. Patrick Ferriday’s Before the Light’s Went Out: The 1912 Triangular Tournament has been a long time in the writing and will cast much light on an unfairly neglected English summer. It is true that the Australian side were missing six top players as a result of, effectively, industrial action, and the South African side failed to live up to expectations. Those problems, coupled with the wet summer, meant that the first, and still only, triangular Test tournament was something of a disappointment at the time. There is a contemporary account, EHD Sewell’s Triangular Cricket, but it is rare and, accordingly, expensive. By definition it lacks the insights that Ferriday is able to provide now, all but one hundred years later. Contemporary material such as Aubrey Faulkner’s cables to the Rand Daily Mail and numerous unpublished images from private collections make this a definitive account of a summer of unparalleled significance. Beyond the cricket played the author promises an examination of the tournament in the context of contemporary Empire policy and the World War that was just around the corner. David Frith has provided Ferriday with a foreword to his book and that support must be an indication of the quality of the book.

April will see the 148th edition of Wisden hit the shops with the traditional choice of either limp or hard cloth bindings. Only a fraction of Wisdens are now produced in limp covers, a complete reversal of the situation in 1896 when the first few publisher’s hardbacks appeared. There will also be, as there has been each year since 2006, a large format edition, albeit only in hardback. The Limited Edition version which first appeared in 1996, beautifully bound in leather, will again be available – whether there are any completists out there who insist on buying four copies each year in order to cover all variants I do not know, but I would not be totally surprised if there were some. Another eponymous title, and one mentioned here a year ago, The Wisden Collector’s Guide, makes its bow in April. Collecting cricket books in general, and Wisden in particular, is a solid and reliable “pleasure investment” and Messrs Furmedge and Rice’s Guide will doubtless contain much of interest as well as some sound advice.

The Wisden brand is being made the most of by its new owners, A&C Black. Whether the editing will be sufficiently skilful to make Wisden on India and Wisden on Yorkshire worthwhile purchases for collectors of the good book must be doubtful, but having allowed the Almanack itself to continue to develop without interference I wish the publishers well with those titles, which, as the names suggest, will comprise material from the last 147 editions.

We are, of course, just reaching the climax of an Ashes series which, after the first day at the MCG, has seen the balance of power shift decisively in favour of England. Surely the urn will now be retained but whether this will lead to the sort of glut of books that followed the old country’s first success in two decades in 2005 must be doubtful, given that at this stage only Gideon Haigh, as far as I can see, is confirmed as the author of a book on the series. I find it difficult to believe that in the final analysis Haigh will be the only one, but we will have to wait and see. While on the subject of Haigh, universally acclaimed as just about the finest writer on the game currently plying his trade, I am disappointed to see that, not for the first time, a collection of his writings, Spheres of Influence, appears to have been denied a UK release. I know little about the book, but from what I have seen its subject matter is definitely not focussed wholly on Australia, so I hope it may just be a case of a delayed UK release.

Turning to limited editions not a great deal has come to my attention but I am particularly pleased to see that Martin Tebay of Red Rose Books has resumed his regular publications about moments in the history of the Lancashire county club. Recently the self explanatory Lancashire’s Record Tenth Wicket Partnership has emerged and Captain Moggridge – Archie MacLaren’s Dilemma is due shortly – the latter is the tale of what happened when a 20 year old MacLaren found himself due to play in two places at once. Next year will see 65 not out and five for nowt appear, the story of leg spinner Dick Tyldesley’s finest hour, and hopefully others will emerge as well – perhaps Martin might be interested in publishing the biography of Ted MacDonald that I am told has been written but which has not so far found a backer?

Phillip Paine’s cottage industry of producing books that collect together photographs of cricketer’s graves and memorials continued in 2010 with Volume 15 of Innings Complete and Volume 16 will follow in 2011. Each edition is limited to 250 signed copies.

At the costlier and more scholarly end of the market Roger Heaven’s long awaited continuation of Arthur Haygarth’s monumental Scores and Biographies series which will appear in early 2011 and will be Volume 17 of the work. It will cover the 1880 season and, as previously, will be limited to 500 copies. For those whose interest extends even further back into the mists of time the second volume of Ian Maun’s From Commons to Lords is due in the spring and will be limited to 200 copies

Lancashire are not the only county to be favoured in this way next year as hopefully the New Year will see Christopher Saunders Publishing producing a boxed set of facsimiles of early Sussex annuals and some related material. While not being quite so extensive a project this is very much in the fashion of Chris’s previous efforts with Britcher and Denison and will not be cheap. A final decision has yet to be made as to whether the project will see the light of day and it is not yet mentioned on Chris’s website but anyone interested should email him via the site.

From New Zealand I understand that due to be published in February is Waihola Willow. By their content the Red Rose and Christopher Saunders limited editions target a niche market but this takes specialisation to new heights – it is about a New Zealand bat maker of the first decade of the 20th century!

And finally I will mention another book being published by Wisden’s owners, A&C Black. Graeme Wright, a former editor of the Almanack, is the author of Behind the Boundary: Cricket at a Crossroads. I don’t necessarily expect to enjoy the book, which will comprise a searching examination of the somewhat parlous state of the domestic game in England, but I suspect it will be an important contribution to that particular ongoing debate. It is due for release in June.

Twice a year CW looks forward to those cricket books due in the months ahead. Inevitably in this sort of exercise books will be overlooked. If any publisher or author reading this has a book we have missed please let us know and if you would like CW to review your books and/or announce your future plans at the end of June 2011 then please contact us at info@cricketweb.net, which email address can also be used by any prospective purchaser seeking further information

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