New Books – An Overview for January 2017

This is the sixteenth time I have penned this feature, so something of a milestone. Eight years ago when I began I thought it might be a one off, but encouraging noises from a number of sources have helped me keep going, particularly in the early days when I feared that the rise of the kindle and ebook would seriously compromise the viability of the printed word. I am confident now that that particular threat has been seen off and that the enchanting sight and feel of real books will remain popular in perpetuity and have decided that from now on I will, contrary to my practice hitherto, announce any cricket books that are lined up for an ebook only release – if there ever are any more of course!

After that little gloat I will turn to the business at hand. There seems, in Australia at least, to be a burst of enthusiasm for volumes of autobiography from the ranks of the recently retired. Inevitably such a comment must take into account that much in that genre depends on the number of and interest in recent retirees, and there are certainly a bumper crop of them this year, but despite that I was still slightly surprised to see Michael Clarke, Mitch Johnson, Brad Haddin and Chris Rogers all trying to grab a slice of the Christmas present market. For completeness I should give the titles, which are respectively My Story, Resilient, My Family’s Keeper and Bucking The Trend. With Brad Hogg’s autobiography also having just appeared then against that sort of competition, and by virtue of it not appearing until after the festive period, I suspect Darren Lehmann’s Coach might struggle to shift too many copies. Archie has reminded me that he has a copy and will review it next week. The ever milestone orientated Mac also wanted it known that Lehmann’s biography was the first book ever reviewed on CW.

As well as ‘Pup’ Clarke’s auto a couple of other Australian captains are the subject of biographies. One is Ricky Ponting, whose own magnum opus appeared in 2013. A much slimmer book, Ricky Ponting: Heart of Australia Cricket Team by Dhirubhai Patel has just appeared. I know nothing more about the book save that it is ‘Independently’ published, which I suspect means by the author himself – a hagiography methinks. Brian Matthews’ Benaud: An Appreciation might, I suppose, be something similar. The publisher’s blurb does a very good job of suggesting the book might add something to the extensive amount of Benaud related material that has appeared since the great man’s death, but then I suppose that is its job. Whoever does actually produce the definitive life of Richie will doubtless sell a goodly number of books.

On the subject of captaincy I have recently acquired a great deal more knowledge of India’s current captain from Vijay Lokapally’s biography, Driven. I didn’t really need to see him bat after reading Lokapally’s account, and much as I like watching him at the crease I didn’t entirely appreciate having to witness him bat England into oblivion these last few weeks.

From New Zealand Brendon McCullum’s autobiography is coming our way soon. Its title is Declared, and an interesting read it will be. Two other New Zealand cricketers, this time from long ago, are the subject of slim biographies. The books concerned are Martin Donnelly – A True Sportsman, and Stewie Dempster – Leading The Way. Both books are an excellent look at the cricket careers of their subjects, the first two outstanding batsmen to emerge from the Shaky Isles. I would however sound a cautionary note in the sense that much of the material has appeared before in author Wesley Harte’s contributions about the pair to the ACS Famous Cricketers Series, and neither book sheds much light on the character or personality of its subject and only the barest details of their lives outside the game. I am also led to believe that a full biography of Dempster, probably the more interesting of the two, is in the course of preparation albeit no potential release date has yet been pencilled in.

Returning to Australia one of their all time greats, Dennis Lillee, has if I am not mistaken just broken another record by publishing a fifth volume of autobiography. Dennis Lillee is an essentially pictorial book, but was much enjoyed by the Mac so should not be ignored simply on the grounds of ownership of one or more of its predecessors.

Recently published in Australia has been a biography of Charles Eady. A decent all rounder Eady was a good enough player to be selected for two Tests around the turn of the 20th century, but he is better known for scoring 566 in a club match in his native Tasmania. On the subject of Tasmania a very recent publication is a memoir of Scott Mason, an opening batsman who died tragically early at the age of 28 in 2005. There are only 174 copies, one for every run Mason scored in the higher of his two First Class centuries. As with almost all Australian items copies can be obtained from Roger Page. Speaking of Mr Page, the author himself of a history of Tasmanian cricket that was published back in 1957, an appreciation of him has been written by Ronald Cardwell and Alfred James, naturally in a limited edition. I have read and enjoyed the booklet very much, but will say no more for fear of suffering another broadside from the difficult to please Mr James.

Stephen Chalke is, I am delighted to say, working on a new book based on conversations with one of the more interesting characters from my youth, Yorkshire and England off spinner Geoff Cope. A controversial action (that always looked alright to me) dogged Cope’s career, and since his playing days ended he has been heavily involved in a number of the controversies that weighed his old county down until recently. According to Chalke he has much of interest to say.

There will be a couple more biographies coming our way in which Chalke has a hand, this time with his publisher’s hat on. The first is a biography of the England opener of the late 1950s, Raman Subba Row. One of the last of the old-fashioned amateurs Subba Row won thirteen caps, scored three centuries including two against Australia, and averaged more than 46. A fine career beckoned but at 29 Subba Row retired to concentrate on his business career. His story is told by Douglas Miller, biographer of a number of Subba Row’s contemporaries, and therefore ideally qualified to write it.

Also from a Chalke imprint is a second contribution to cricket literature from Michael Burns, responsible a couple of years ago for a biography of Jack Crawford, an interesting figure whose cricket career began in Edwardian times. This time Burns turns his attention to one of his own contemporaries and indeed teammates at club level. The subject is Russell Endean, a South African wicketkeeper batsman who played for his country 28 times in the 1950s.

Also being helped into print by Chalke is an author he describes simply as a very fine young sports writer, who is writing a monograph about Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter and our great game. One thing I know about Pinter is that he is responsible for what must be the single most valuable cricketing publication to have appeared since 1980, a brief biographical sketch of the former Somerset and England fast bowler and famous hitter Arthur Wellard. That is an intensely personal memoir of a man who Pinter played club cricket with for many years, and as I managed to pick up a copy for a tenner on honeymoon in the Isle of Wight in 2005 it also provides what is, sadly, my only happy memory of my second marriage, but I digress.

Two more books are coming our way from the Chalke stables, albeit with only a passing nod to cricket. One is The Coloured Counties by Anthony Gibson, son of Alan and author of the splendid Didcot and the Demon, and the other a memoir of a Cotswold childhood in the 1940s and 1950s by John Light, a cousin of author Laurie Lee and past Chairman and President of the Gloucestershire county club.

Privately published in 2016 was Then Came A Cloud, a biography of the largely forgotten Lancashire all-rounder and Scottish Rugby International Kenneth MacLeod from the Golden Age, a book that deserves more exposure than it has had. I suspect a much wider audience will be reached by the forthcoming autobiography of former England quick bowler and Anglo-Australian Alan Mullally, due this summer. According to its author it will not be boring because he isn’t boring. I would agree with that, although I hope he has a good ghost to help him with the writing given that his four convictions for drink driving amply demonstrate that he cannot be very bright.

Another of our favourite publishers is Ronald Cardwell’s Cricket Publishing Company in Australia. Many titles are in the offing, but our inside man suggests that only three are likely to appear in the next few months. Two of those have been mentioned before, but deserve another plug as we now have working titles. They are The Little Dasher – The Tragic Life of Harry Graham, by Mr Cardwell himself, and Forgotten Adventure by Stephen Walters, an account of the visit by an Australian team to New Zealand in 1946, which included what is now recognised as the first ever Test match between the two countries. The final title we are led to believe will appear is Kersi Meher-Homji’s From Bradman to Kohli, a history of Test cricket between Australia and India.

We also have a mole inside the ACS committee, who has liberated a copy of their publishing schedule for the next two years. We are however warned that as the timetable moves into the future it becomes increasingly uncertain, so after much deliberation I will again concentrate on the next six months or so. My great favourite, the Lives in Cricket series will see three new additions. Due in February is George Raikes by Stephen Musk. Many will not have heard of Raikes, unsurprising as he played only 30 First Class matches, back at the turn of the 20th century. A decent all-rounder Raikes also played football for England, was ordained at the age of 24, and lived to be 93.

Later in the year Raikes will be followed by the story of Brian Sellers, the Yorkshire captain in the 1930s and just after World War Two, and an autocratic figure in the running of the club for the rest of his days. I am surprised he has not been the subject of a biography before – one thing that can be said for certain is that author Mark Rowe will not have been short of material.

Finally the first volume in the series devoted to a lady cricketer will appear, the subject being Enid Bakewell. An all rounder Enid averaged just a tick under 60 with the bat and 16 with the ball in Tests, so better than Messrs Miller, Botham, Sobers, Khan, Kallis or anyone else. This book should, given that Enid is still with us and was therefore able to contribute, be one of the best the series has produced.

As always the ACS will publish a number of books and booklets that are best described as essentially statistical in nature, so I will not go into details here, but will be able to assist anyone who is interested if they email us. I will also point readers back in the direction of my July 2016 article which mentions one or two more books that will see the light of day in the coming months and weeks. A new series of books to go with Lives in Cricket is due to launch in 2017 as well, but as the first volume in the Cricket Witness series is not due until August I will keep my powder dry on that one.

I had hoped that I might be able to announce one or more titles from Max Books in their Lancashire Legends series, but sadly I understand that none are likely to be ready too soon. That said Colin Evans’ book about Farokh Engineer is expected, as well as a book about an England captain from Victorian times, AN ‘Monkey’ Hornby. There have been two biographies of Hornby already, one from WH Hoole that is one of the most obscure cricket titles ever published. There is also a volume in the ACS Lives in Cricket series from Stuart Brodkin. This latest book is by a local historian in Cheshire and contains much that is new about Hornby’s life outside the game. Also due from Max Books is Geoff Wellsteed’s Cricket Pavilions of Cheshire, a high quality production that is going to appear in a special subscribers limited edition as well as a standard edition. The clue is in the title, the book featuring more than 150 grounds where the game is played in the county.

Independent sports publishers Chequered Flag have produced some interesting cricket titles in the last couple of years. They have just one due for 2017 at present but it is certainly a book that should be very good indeed. Arthur Carr captained Nottinghamshire for years between the wars and, briefly, England. He was an aggressive skipper and batsman, although a return of just one half century in eleven Tests suggests he wasn’t quite up to international standard with the bat. An amateur who had no need to work Carr was a rumbustuous character who lived hard and played hard and was never afraid to speak his mind. After his retirement from the game he wrote one of the best autobiographies of the era, the appropriately titled Cricket With The Lid Off.

To 21st century readers the most interesting aspect of Carr’s career is that he was, with Harold Larwood and Bill Voce amongst his charges, one of the architects of ‘Bodyline’ and whilst he was not present in Australia during 1932/33 he was involved in the controversy at every other stage, both pre and post tour. It is a Test series that holds the fascination of many to this day and it is for that reason that I believe Chequered Flag will be pleasantly surprised at the number of copies of this as yet untitled book that they sell. The author is Peter Wynne-Thomas, a man who has the enviable task of being Nottinghamshire’s archivist and librarian. He is an experienced writer whose long association with the County make him the ideal man to plug this particular gap in the game’s literature.

After a prodigious year in 2016 when they published a number of excellent books on the game Worthing based Pitch Publishing so far have only one title confirmed for the first half of the year. Mike Procter’s autobiography, Caught In The Middle, should be an excellent read. It won’t be the first Procter autobiography, one having been published in South Africa in 1974 and a second in England in 1981, but much interesting water has passed under Procter’s bridge in the 35 years since then.

Tour books are thin on the ground as always, but there is one interesting historical one due next year. Publishers didn’t bother with England’s 1938/39 trip to South Africa at the time. That probably wasn’t due to the war as only once, way back in 1906, had a South African tour been chronicled before, but it was an interesting trip, famous for the notorious timeless Test that failed to finish even after ten days. Thanks to book dealer John McKenzie an account by Brian Bassano appeared in 1997. I never expected to see another one but in June Bloomsbury are publishing John Lazenby’s Edging Towards Darkness: The Story of the Last Timeless Test. Bassano’s book was a welcome one, and told it’s story well but perhaps in a somewhat matter of fact way. Lazenby’s account will, I suspect, be rather more colourful, and I await it with interest.

Something similar is The Conquests of 1966 of Alf and Gary which was published in November. Author Brian Scovell was a staff writer for the old Daily Sketch at the time, and had the pleasure of reporting on England’s only ever successful pursuit of the FIFA World Cup. Test cricket took a break during the tournament, but either side of it West Indies won a pulsating Test series 3-1. Captain Sobers averaged a Bradmanesque 103.14 with the bat, not to mention taking 20 wickets at 27.25 with the ball. It wasn’t all Sobers however, as the great man and his side took their collective eyes off the ball as tea approached on the second day of the dead rubber and England pulled off a remarkable consolation victory. Scovell wrote a book on the series at the time, and this one, written with the benefit of half a century’s hindsight, sounds very promising indeed.

Moving on to a handful of smaller ‘boutique’ publishers in England I am delighted to see that Martin Tebay’s Red Rose Books have started publishing once again. The first booklet this year was one by Stephen Musk about a descendant of the great Fuller Pilch, George Pilch. Literally just released is something of Tebay’s, Worthy Causes Both – the subject matter is familiar territory for Tebay, a Lancashire player of long ago, this time Jimmy Tyldesley.

Richard Miller probably won’t thank me for describing him as a boutique, but his first foray into publishing, Perthshire’s Proud Place in Scottish Cricket, is an interesting project and not, I hope, his last. Boundary Books on the other hand have been publishing fine cricket writing, generally in sumptuous limited editions for years, albeit rather less frequently in recent times. They make a welcome return in 2017 with a ‘follow up’ to Tony Laughton’s 2008 masterwork Captain of the Crowd, a book of such high quality that even the Mac was persuaded to award five stars. The new book appears because seven years on Laughton has the confidence to publish a definitive bibliography of the work of Albert Craig.

The Sussex Cricket Museum and Educational Trust have been producing occasional high quality limited editions for a few years now, and five appeared in the course of 2016. I know not what may be planned for 2017 but last year’s five were a collection of the writings of former Sussex skipper Hubert Doggart, an appreciation of coach Mark Robinson, the eulogy read at the funeral of long time supporter David Mathias and brief memoirs of David Semmence, in 1956 the youngest Sussex centurion, and young bowler George Garton who, in April last year, took a wicket with his first delivery in First Class cricket.

One of the men closely involved in the Sussex Museum’s publishing activities is Nicholas Sharp. Strictly for the bibliophile Nicholas also published a small book himself during 2016,that being a guide to the many different editions of the Victorian book, Routledge’s Handbook of Cricket.

Another self publisher is Duncan Anderson, the man largely responsible for the wonderful Echoes of a Golden Age, one of the very best pictorial books on the game ever released. In recent years Anderson has taken to publishing his research in small high quality booklets. Most have followed a theme, being biographical sketches of First Class cricketers who lost their lives in the Great War. This year his subject was Charles Fisher, a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy who was one of a complement of 1,021 aboard HMS Invincible, a battlecruiser sunk in 1916 during the Battle of Jutland. There were only six survivors, Fisher not being amongst them. Anderson’s booklets are not published for sale, and anyone able to acquire a copy is very fortunate indeed.

In recent years Ian Maun has, with the assistance first of Roger Heavens and then Martin Wilson, published two volumes of From Commons to Lord’s, collections of previously unpublished cricketing references covering the periods 1700-1750 and 1750-1770. Five years after the appearance of the latter book Wilson is publishing a third volume which updates the first two and takes the timeline forward another ten years. Published once again in a limited edition your correspondent unfortunately forgot to place an advance order despite a reminder. I blame a chaotic few months caused by building works at home, and will endeavour to find a copy in the coming months. By their nature Maun’s researches will not interest the casual reader, but for those interested in the ancient history of the game they are fascinating.

One book that is not straightforward to categorise is Front Foot: The Law That Changed Cricket, by Doug Ackerly. As the title suggests this full length book deals with just a single aspect of the laws of the game. As the DRS system constantly reminds us the front foot no ball can be crucial. There does of course have to be such a rule, but until 1963 it was the position of the back foot that governed the legality of a delivery. The change eliminated the drag which enabled fast bowlers to get a couple of yards closer to batsmen and which had become a big issue, but has it caused more problems than it is worth? One of the bases of Ackerly’s study is that the change in the law caused bowling actions to evolve, and not in a good way, leading to the much more frequent injuries that afflict modern pace bowlers.

Cricket Corruption: The Guilty Named And Shamed by JL Nicholls was published in September without too much fanfare. It deals with a wretched but important subject. The newsworthiness of these stories has ensured that there have been a steady stream of books on various dark corners, but this is the first for a while and will therefore cover cases that have not been explored in any depth before in book form. Let us hope that it remains up to date for a long time.

One of the South African game’s leading historians, Andre Odendaal, has written Cricket And Conquest: The Story of South African Cricket Retold. This is volume one which takes the story to 1975. A series of books by MW Luckin, Louis Duffus and Brian Bassano represent what amounts to an official history of the game on the Cape up until 1960, so fifteen important years haveyet to be fully chronicled, and doubtless much interesting detail has been added in respect of earlier times. Also on the subject of history, albeit rather less groundbreaking, is World Cup Cricket – All About Indian Participation 1975 – 2015 by Surya Sharma. I will endeavour to track down a copy, primarily to see what the book has to say about that first tournament back in 1975. The Indians may be as good as anyone and better than most at ODIs today, but they were amusingly clueless in those days.

So that is that for this preview. To any authors or publishers I have missed I apologise sincerely and will endeavour to atone for my, with a nod to Allen Synge, sins of omission in six months time.

Twice a year CW looks forward to those cricket books due in the months ahead. 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 beginning of July 2017 then please contact us at info@cricketweb.net, which email address can also be used by any prospective purchaser seeking further information. As ever this article is as comprehensive as it is only as a result of assistance from others and, in particular on this occasion, Roger Page, Stephen Chalke, Paul Camellin, Michael Down, Scott Reeves, Malcolm Lorimer and Keith Walmsley

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