New Books – An Overview for July 2016Martin Chandler |
The biggest mistake I made in preparing my last overview was not to ask Pitch Publishing what they had on their release schedule for 2016. Had I remembered to do so I would have been able to announce the imminent arrival of some very fine books. The first was Nihar Suthar’s wonderful book about Afghan cricket, The Corridor of Uncertainty. The second was Stuart Rayner’s book about Yorkshire’s travails in the 1970s and 1980s, The War of the White Roses, although I did spot that one. I missed the next five however, and what a diverse range of subjects they embraced; Alan Butcher’s record of his experiences in Zimbabwe, The Good Murungu, David Battersby’s celebration of a long forgotten England tour, In the Shadow of Packer, David Tossel’s look at last summer’s other Ashes series Girls of Summer, Michael Yardy’s autobiography, The Hard Yards, Steve Dolman’s In Their Own Words and, last but not least and certainly on my list to review, John Fuller’s All Wickets Great and Small, a look at league cricket in Yorkshire.
I don’t intend to make the same mistake again so have checked with them exactly what their schedule is for the rest of the year, and I am delighted to see there will be no let up, and those titles due look interesting as well. First for a mention is a long overdue autobiography from Mike Procter, Caught in the Middle: Monkeygate, Politics and Other Hairy Issues; the Autobiography of Mike Procter. I am looking forward particularly to some advice on what to do about dodgy knees. Procter is a cricketer who, despite limited opportunities in the Test arena, is undoubtedly deserving of description as an all time great.
The same cannot be said of Barbadian John Holder, a right arm bowler of just above medium place who played for Hampshire for five seasons from 1968. Holder was a good enough bowler to average just over 24 but he moved into the leagues before coming back to the First Class game as an umpire, eventually standing in 11 Tests. Former Hampshire player Andy Murtagh, who since retiring from the teaching profession has already written the lives of George Chesterton, Tom Graveney and Barry Richards has written, A Test of Character: The Story of John Holder, Fast Bowler and Test Match Umpire. The book hits the shops this week.
In a fortnight’s time Pitch publish 28 Days Data. The sub-title explains the mission statement, England’s Troubled Relationship with One Day Cricket. Pitch’s blurb says ‘England have always struggled at World Cups, at least that’s how the story goes. In fact they’ve made at least the semi-finals at five, but never won. From the last final in 1992 to the present day things have gone from bad to farcical, culminating in 2015’s group-stage exit. 28 Days’ Data is the story of a troubled history in one-day cricket.’ The book’s authors are Dave Tickner and Peter Miller, who has already contributed one very readable book to Pitch’s oeuvre, Second XI.
In October Cricket on the Continent by Tim Brooks appears. As the title suggests it is a survey of the game on the continent of Europe. Somewhere within my library there is a 1969 book, The Story of Continental Cricket, by Labouchere, Provis and Hargreaves. It is a fascinating book, and an updating volume long overdue.
Apart from not contacting Pitch, I also forgot to contact Chequered Flag Publishing. They too had two excellent books for release, Younis Ahmed’s autobiography Lahore to London, and a biography of Jack Crawford, Rebel With A Cause, written by Keith Booth. Disappointingly Chequered Flag have nothing due in the coming months, although in the more distant future I understand that Mr Booth has finally bowed to the weight of expectation that he would one day write a biography of the turn of the 20th century Surrey and England stalwart Tom Hayward, as well as his father, uncle and grandfather.
One publisher I did contact before my last article was Max Books, however they too have released a recent book that I have not previously announced, and it gives me great pleasure to do so here. So after a reminder that Tom Smith’s diary of last summer, Boulder Rolling, is now available, and that Colin Evans book about Lancashire’s 1975, Sun, Snow and Strikes, will be released soon. Both are due in a signed and specially bound limited edition as well as in standard format. Also in two editions is Keith Hayhurst’s The Story of a Stained Glass Window. It doesn’t sound too inspiring, and I even toyed with the idea of not buying a copy. I’m glad I didn’t follow my instinct. ‘Tis an excellent book, that I will review very soon. For the future I believe Evans is working on a book with Farokh Engineer. There is already a biography of Engineer, published in 2004 by John Cantrell, but no autobiography. ‘Rooky’ was a great entertainer, and Evans has already had one five star review on CricketWeb, so that is one that I sincerely hope will see the light of day.
What about the ACS, who have been fairly quiet in the first six months of the year? I am pleased to report that their schedule for the rest of the year is rather busier. As mentioned in January a volume in the Lives in Cricket Series on ‘Foghorn’ Jackson is due shortly, and before the end of the year Lionel Palairet’s story should appear. Palairet appeared for Oxford University, Somerset and, twice, in home Ashes Tests. His batting was one of the delights of ‘The Golden Age’. Keith Walmsley’s second volume of ‘Brief Candles’ is due around the same time. Several more additions to the series are pencilled in for 2017 including one of the few from the Bodyline series who have not already been the subject of a biography, Maurice Leyland.
Outside the Lives in Cricket Series and the Association’s regular statistical publications the next six months should see three more books appear. The first is A Game Taken Seriously, a history of Yorkshire cricket. Author Jeremy Lonsdale is the latest in a lengthy list of previous writers on the subject, and it will be interesting to see how he approaches his task. Thereafter what is described as an anecdotal history of the game, The Summer Field, by Mark Rowe is due and at the end of the year a book on Cricket Memorials by Michael Ronayne. Back in the 1980s Ronayne self-published a series of booklets, nation by nation, dealing with the selection of all touring parties and containing some interesting facts and statistics – he could do a lot worse than update them – they are excellent little publications.
There are a couple of autobiographies due from current English players. It strikes me as decidedly premature for Ben Stokes’ story to appear, and the not desperately appealingly titled Firestarter is due next year. We will see. Rather better timed is Jonathan Trott’s autobiography. It seems Trott’s England career is now over, and it will be interesting to compare his story with those of Marcus Trescothick, Graeme Fowler and Mike Yardy.
As far as Australians are concerned there is a small but interesting selection of books on their way. The most eagerly awaited is Gideon Haigh’s biography of Victor Trumper, Stroke of Genius: Victor Trumper and the Shot that Changed Cricket, which has a UK release date of 22 September. In view of that title it will surprise no one that the jacket of the book reproduces George Beldam’s iconic image of Trumper jumping out to drive.
Brad Hogg is over 45 now but still playing the game at the top level, thanks to the IPL. October will see The Wrong ‘un: The Brad Hogg Story, appearing in time for Christmas. Is this the one I was told at the end of last year would be ‘quite sensational’? I am sure Archie will let us know.
For the collectors amongst us the Charles Bannerman: Australia’s Premier Batsman will be the next release from the Cricket Publishing Company. I understand that, entirely fittingly, there is to be a limited edition of 165 copies, including a de luxe version which will be limited to the first 44. Following that I believe that a biography of Harry Graham, The Little Dasher, will not be far behind. Graham is an interesting character. As his soubriquet suggests he was an attacking batsman and an excellent runner between the wickets. He played six times for Australia scoring two centuries, one on debut in 1893. Ten years later he moved to New Zealand where, at the age of 40 he died. It is difficult to find out much about his life outside cricket in existing literature, so a full biography will be very welcome.
Jack Scott is another old Australian who is to be the subject of a biography. He was a fiery fast bowler who played First Class cricket for twenty years and was the first man to dismiss Donald Bradman in a Sheffield Shield game. He later stood as an umpire throughout the 1936/37 and 1946/47 Ashes series.
Two other Australian limited editions have recently come to my attention. The first, Against All Odds, is from Ken Piesse and Mark Browning and is a celebration of Victoria’s unexpected success in the 1966/67 Sheffield Shield. The book is timed to coincide with a reunion of the side and those attending will be invited to sign what will therefore be a particularly appealing limited edition, which I understand is to consist of 221 copies. Rather fewer copies, 70, are being printed of Mike Coward: A Profile by David Jenkins. It is an appreciation of the veteran writer, author and broadcaster.
Hopefully some of the other titles due from Australia and mentioned in my January preview will appear, the most likely being Stephen Walters book on the Australian tour of New Zealand in 1945/46, and Rob Franks’ look at New Zealand cricketers in England in 1945. One title not mentioned in January that should be seen before Christmas is a 32 page booklet compiled by Rodney Cavalier, What They Said About Trumper.
Last year saw the publication of the definitive book about the County game in England, Stephen Chalke’s beautifully produced Summer’s Crown. Early this year, with rather less fanfare, another book on the subject appeared, Dave Allen’s Forever Changes: Living with English County Cricket. I understand the book concentrates on the counties since 1959 when the author first remembers it. The County Championship of 1959 had not much changed since it was first fully organised in 1890, but subsequently underwent much upheaval. By looking at those changes with an eye to the wider issues of a changing society Allen’s book complements Chalke’s masterpiece rather than competing with it.
Finally on Australians Richie: The Man Behind the Legend was published last year in Australia. Later this year Pitch are releasing it in the UK. The authors, probably better described as editors, are Norman Tasker and Ian Heads. There are personal memories from the better part of 200 people, and a hugely impressive list it is too. Alan Davidson and Neil Harvey are the two most venerable but there are a myriad of cricketers, writers, administrators and family members who contribute.
Unusually a couple of West Indians have produced autobiographies in 2016. The first was Tino Best’s Mind the Windows, and more recently Six Machine: I Don’t Like Cricket … I Love It has appeared from Chris Gayle. What odds a book from Shiv Chanderpaul soon? Pretty long I fear.
There is one other book on its way about a West Indian. Connie: The Life of Learie Constantine is not the first biography of the multi-talented Trinidadian but, given author Harry Pearson’s talents as a writer it seems likely to be quite outstanding. In addition to being a fine hard hitting batsman, genuinely fast bowler and brilliant fielder Constantine achieved much in the fields of law and politics after his active cricket career ended and a definitive account of his life is still awaited.
Is Mark Nicholas considered primarily as a player or a broadcaster? At his peak as a batsman he can’t have been too far away from the England selector’s thoughts. Many years on and whilst he might not be universally acclaimed as a presenter and commentator his voice and style of delivery is instantly recognisable. He has always been one of my favourites and his book, A Beautiful Game, is certainly one I am looking forward to.
Still on a biographical theme is John Stern’s collection of pen portraits The Periodic Table of Cricket. Similar in that it tells the stories of a number of cricketers is Malcolm Knox’s The Keepers: The Players at the Heart of Australian Cricket released in Australia last year and reviewed by Archie here, it is now available in the UK.
A recent coffee table book is Remarkable Cricket Grounds by Brian Levison that is published by Pavilion. Some of the usual suspects are featured, the MCG and Newlands to mention two, but many more of the grounds featured are much less well known and are selected either for the beauty of their settings, their unusual locations or both.
There isn’t too much history about this time, although we do have Barry Nicholls follow up to his book last year about the ‘official’ Australian players who appeared in Tests during the Packer schism. In fact it is more of a prequel than a sequel, as The Test of the Century is about the Centenary Test that was played at the MCG in March 1977. For once a one off Test lived up to the hype, but Nicholls has not just written a match report, he has interviewed many of the participants, and puts events in their historical context.
Another interesting historical book comes from Pitch, and as is there wont, it visits an area of the game’s literature no one has really gone to before. Real International Cricket: A History in One Hundred Scorecards sounds like a gentle introduction to some historic Test matches. In fact it is much more interesting than that. The matches involved are all International games, but none involve the Test playing nations. They stretch back 175 years, presumably to the first USA v Canada fixture, to more recent games involving the likes of Afghanistan and Ireland, as well as less familiar combatants like Romania and Bulgaria.
I have a feeling that the year’s best seller might be Mike Brearley’s On Form. Back in 1985 Brearley wrote The Art of Captaincy which was immediately acclaimed as the definitive book on that particular skill. It still is. Brearley’s post-cricket career as a psychoanalyst puts him in a good position to look at the elusive concept of form. Were the book merely a cricket book I have no doubt it would do well, but Brearley goes well beyond the game, and according to his publishers’ blurb the book is relevant to the fields of drama, music, teaching and business as well as cricket, and it is for that reason that I have a feeling it will sell rather well.
I will finish this round up with mention of a couple of self-published books that have come into my possession in recent months. The first I have already reviewed, Tim Cawkwell’s Cricket’s Pure Pleasure: Middlesex v Yorkshire, September 2015. The second is cut from a rather different cloth. In recent years Duncan Anderson has produced a few copies of a number of booklets about cricketers who were killed in action in the Great War. The subject of the latest is Wilfred Bird, an amateur wicketkeeper who played 55 times for Oxford University and Middlesex between 1903 and 1913. A schoolmaster by profession Bird was killed in action in France in 1915 at the age of 31. It is a fascinating piece of research.
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 2016 then please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, 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, Derek Hammond, Malcolm Lorimer, Scott Evans and Keith Walmsley
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