New Books – An Overview For July 2017

Published: 2017

In January this year I commented on what still seems to me to be a victory for tradition over technology in what I saw as the ebook war. I am reminded of my remarks by the outcome of our recent general election when, to my great delight Jeremy Corbyn and Labour won, and Theresa May and her pack of lap dogs and loose cannons lost. It certainly felt like that, but statistics, so important in our great game, give the lie to it. So perhaps the reference to an ebook war was a bit silly. There must be a place for both, much as I personally prefer traditional print over electronic media.

Whilst on the subject of tradition our County Championship is enjoying something of a renaissance. It is sad that it is not a money spinner and never will be, but I’m sure it is here to stay, something I haven’t always said with the same confidence that I do now. Recent months have seen two small books on the denouement of last year’s title race. The first to reach me was Tim Cawkwell’s self-published The Tale of Two Terriers and the Somerset Cat: The Scrap for Cricket’s County Championship 2016. Rather more traditional is the contribution of Duncan Hamilton, Kings of Summer.

Hamilton was of course responsible for Harold Larwood – The Authorised Biography, a superbly written book that appeared in 2009. The eight years that have passed since then seem to have passed very quickly, and I have often wondered just what Mr Hamilton has been up to. I now know the answer to that, as he tells his reader in Kings of Summer he has been engaged on researching a biography of Sir Neville Cardus, necessarily a vast endeavour.  Cardus led an unconventional life and leaves behind an enormous oeuvre, not all of which is readily available. To write up his life more than forty years after his death must be a daunting prospect for that reason alone. It is all the trickier because Cardus himself produced two volumes of autobiography, and he has two previous biographers. I suspect Hamilton must have found there is rather more to the Cardus story than has been told before, and I am looking forward to reading his book.

Unfortunately Kings of Summer does not indicate when we can expect to see the Cardus story, or even give a clue as to who will be publishing it, but I will keep my eye on that one. In the meantime the project has already given me some pleasure having made me realize, to my initial horror, that I did not own and had never read A Cricketer’s Book, the first Cardus book that originally appeared way back in 1922. My thanks to Mike Down of Boundary Books for coming to the rescue on that one so quickly. I should perhaps add for the benefit of anyone else who may have been guilty of the same oversight that A Cricketer’s Book is neither rare nor expensive, and Mike has a few more copies left in stock.

Whilst putting together his magnum opus on Cardus Hamilton has also been talking to Jonny Bairstow, and has done the donkey work for an as yet untitled autobiography from one of Yorkshire’s favourite sons that is due from Harper Collins in October. Hamilton’s involvement will certainly lift the book above the mundane – how far above we will have to wait and see.

Something I wasn’t expecting to see any time soon was an autobiography from Steve Harmison, but by the time you read this piece it will be here. The publisher’s say the book promises to be the most explosive and compelling cricket book of 2017. Following his rise from homesick bowler to Ashes hero, Harmison lifts the lid on the English game, explains how mental health issues nearly ruined his career and explains his ongoing battle with depression. Hilariously frank, brutally honest, a must-read for cricket fans. If it lives up to that hype it certainly will be a contender for our book of the year. The publisher is Trinity Media Sport Media, and I think this may be their first cricket title. I wish them well.

Another former England pace bowler who has had his share of troubles, although in his case rather more extreme than Harmy’s, is Chris Lewis. Crazy – My Road To Redemption is an interesting title, suggesting that Lewis has put his troubles behind him. I hope so. The only occasion on which I ever had any contact with him he seemed a thoroughly decent man.

Our friends at Pitch Publishing have recently released Mike Procter’s autobiography, Caught in the Middle and, sadly, have no new autobiographies in the pipeline. They do however have a couple of biographies on the way. Over and Out: Albert Trott: The Man Who Cleared the Lord’s Pavilion, should be available by the time this article appears. Trott has already been the subject of one biography in recent years, a joint one covering brother Harry as well. Back in 2010 the Mac gave Aussie Rick Smith’s Blighted Lives 4.5 stars, but conceded that the book was more geared towards former Test skipper Harry than Alberto, adopted son of England. I don’t recall encountering author Steve Neal before but am given to understand he has a lifelong interest in Middlesex’s Trott – Pitch don’t deal in duds, so the book promises to be an interesting read.

The next offering from Pitch comes from an author with whom I am extremely familiar, former Hampshire all-rounder and long time Malvern College master Andy Murtagh. Following Murtagh’s retirement from teaching Malvern’s loss has proved to be cricket literature’s gain as he has produced excellent books about George Chesterton, Tom Graveney, Barry Richards, John Holder and, now, Colin Cowdrey. As with Graveney there has been a previous biography of Cowdrey, but I expect Murtagh’s highly individual style to produce a worthwhile read.

Moving to India there is certainly one biography there that has appeared since January, that being veteran journalist KR Wadhwaney’s MS Dhoni – Child of Destiny. I can’t imagine the book will be as good as Gulu Ezekiel’s Captain Cool, but until Gulu updates his book it will be the most up to date account we have of an interesting life. This year’s addition to the body of work concerning India’s best know cricketing son is Hero: A Biography of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar by Devendra Prabhudesai, a writer who has already written books about India’s other two 10,000 plus men, Rahul Dravid and Sunil Gavaskar.

After a rash of autobiographies in Australia in 2016 I have not been able to find out anything at all about what to expect there in the coming months. Across the Tasman however Bill Francis is about to publish a biography of Bev Congdon, whose batting in England in 1973 I will not forget as long as I live. The sad news is that ‘Congo’ is not currently well enough to sign any copies of the book, although some copies will be signed by the author and by former teammate Dick Collinge, who contributes a foreword.

Book dealer John McKenzie has also published a biographical book recently. More in the nature of a monograph than a full biography the subject is the great West Indian batsman Everton Weekes. It is the last published work of the late Tony Cozier, and highly recommended.

Other UK book dealers have been publishing as well. The aforesaid Boundary Books have already released a follow up to Tony Laughton’s 2010 classic, Captain of the Crowd, with a Bibliography of the Works of Albert Craig. Later in the year there will be another new book. It is based on correspondence, that passed over a number of years, between two famous cricketing names, the great Australian batsman Donald Bradman, and the English journalist and author EW ‘Jim’ Swanton.

Another dealer about to release a new book is Christopher Saunders. His is a biography of the first great amateur cricketer, Lord Frederick Beauclerk. A controversial figure Beauclerk was a fine all-rounder who was at his peak in the early years of the 19th century. He was later President of the MCC, but not a pillar of respectability in the way that many who have held that office have been. Part of me wonders what author Mike Thompson can possibly have found out about Beauclerk that previous historians haven’t, but as I understand that he has been researching his subject for thirty years I hope the answer is ‘quite a lot’. As with the McKenzie and Boundary Books publications there will be a standard editions as well as a de luxe limited edition.

On the subject of limited editions Roger Heavens is almost ready to publish volume 21 of Arthur Haygarth’s monumental Scores and Biographies, which will cover 1884. The format will be much the same as his other recent volumes. Roger needs to receive at least one hundred orders to make the project viable. I hope he has got there but in case he has not anyone interested in subscribing who has not already done should contact us and we will put you in touch with Roger. The cost will be £125 and expressions of interest need to be received by 5 July, so you don’t have long!

Another limited edition to have appeared recently is from the Sussex Cricket Museum and Educational Trust. James H Parks and his 1937 World Record has been published in a limited edition of 100. Two other privately produced and very slim limited editions have appeared from David Battersby. Both, unsurprisingly for those familiar with Battersby, are about aspects of Pakistani cricket. One is the story of a County Championship match Battersby watched as a youngster and in which Javed, The Prince of Wales played a starring role. The other is what comes as close to being a contemporary tour book in this article as anything else, The 2016 Pakistan Tour of the UK.

On the subject of tours there is a book from New Zealand. Overshadowed by Rob Franks is not about a Test tour, nor indeed a tour in the conventional sense at all. It concerns a series of matches played in England by a New Zealand Services side in the summer of 1945. There were a hard core of regulars but, as commitments permitted, others came in and out of the side.

Family ties in cricket are always interesting. Following On – In The Footsteps Of Cricketing Fathers explores that hoary old chestnut as to whether sporting talent is inherited, created or something in between. I don’t suppose James Buttler’s book will contain a definitive answer or change too many opinions, but I’m sure it will be an interesting read and, given the publisher’s connections in Yorkshire, will hopefully contain some input from Richard Hutton.

Cricketing Allsorts is a curious one. The book’s sub-title is The good, the bad, the ugly and the downright weird, and it is divided into those four sections. The format is the same in every one of the book’s 48 chapters – 10 selections of 150 words or so each. As an example in The Bad we have a real talking point, ‘Unfortunate England Careers’. What exactly that means depends on your of point of view of course, but James Taylor, Andy Lloyd and Ollie Milburn certainly fit my criteria. But Wayne Larkins, Martyn Bicknell and Martin Moxon? And as for Harold Larwood and Robin Smith – something to hotly debate for sure.

A recent curiosity is Impact Index: Numbers Don’t Lie by Aakash Chopra and a group of statisticians. Regular followers of CricketWeb’s features will doubtless have noted with interest our own Dave Wilson’s work on this interesting issue of ‘impact’. I hope very much that Dave will be able to acquire a copy of this Harper Sport India title and let us have a review.

From Lilliput to Lord’s by Greg Young has been published in the last few days. I know little of the book or its author, an Australian lawyer, but the subject matter sounds interesting. It is book about Barbados and, for the tiny place it is, its remarkable propensity to produce world class cricketers.

A couple of veteran Australian writers are publishing new books in the coming weeks. The first is Ashley ‘Rowdy’ Mallett’s Great Australian Test Cricket Stories. As a veteran of 36 Tests there are bound to be one or two new stories in there, as well as some new takes on old ones. Also due in October is Reign of Terror: The Deadly Pairing of Lillee and Thomson by Ian Brayshaw. A contemporary of Mallett, Brayshaw was also a fine all-round cricketer, often said to be the best not to have had a baggy green and he played with Lillee many times for Western Australia. Both these great Australian fast bowlers have been the subject of a number of previous books, and indeed Brayshaw was Lillee’s ghost for his first autobiography. Hopefully here he will share some interesting insights into the dynamics of the famous partnership. I will be curious to see how many of the English survivors of the 1974/75 series will have been prepared to relive their memories of that ordeal in order to assist him.

The ACS have a few new publications due in the coming months. The Lives in Cricket Series will see biographies of Enid Bakewell and Maurice Leyland. The Association is also launching a new series bearing the title Cricket Witness. The first two books due in this are Cricket and Cannons and Class Peace. The former is said to be about cricket and the Crimean War, so twenty years or so before Test cricket began. It is written by David Shimwell, not a name that is familiar to me. All I know of the latter is that it concerns cricket and social class, which does not take us much further forward from the title. It is written by Eric Midwinter, who has an excellent writing pedigree. In addition a book is due from Chris Overson looking at each of the eighty or so occasions when, in the First Class game, all ten wickets have fallen to the same bowler. Finally from the ACS Keith Walmsley is penning a book about the evolution of the laws of the game which he hopes will be ready by November, so that it can coincide with the introduction of the new code. He has hinted that the book may be an online only publication. Despite my opening paragraph I do hope he was joking.

I can give no definite news about the activities of the Cricket Publishing Company, but they certainly have plenty in the pipeline, some of which I have mentioned in previous articles. I know of no definite release dates at the moment, but have heard a whisper of what I understand will be their costliest limitation yet, a reproduction of a diary of the 1949 New Zealand tour of England. It sounds like quite a project, so I can’t imagine it will appear this year, but hopefully I may have a few details by the end of the year.

And finally, we have a book from a military publisher, Pen and Sword. In 2015 the company published Final Wicket by Nigel McCrery. It is an excellent book and looks at the lives of the cricketing casualties of the Great War. Appearing a year after Andrew Renshaw’s monumental work on the same subject under the Wisden imprint, and a rather less satisfactory book on the same theme by Christopher Sandford, McCrery must however have found himself in a crowded marketplace. Coming Storm represents a similar book on the second great conflict of the twentieth century. Necessarily a slimmer volume than its predecessor (there were 142 men to consider rather than the 275 in Final Wicket) on this occasion he has the field to himself.

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 January 2018 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, Michael Down, and Keith Walmsley


In the para about forthcoming ACS books – for Betty Snowball, please substitute Enid Bakewell (easily confused??). Not sure this one will make it before 2018, but hope springs eternal.

Comment by Keith Walmsley | 5:43pm BST 25 June 2017

THE LORD OF LORD’S: The Life and Times of Lord Frederick Beauclerk is a most interesting read and does well in rebalancing the legacy of this 19c-MCC President.

Comment by Richard Adamson | 8:20pm BST 9 July 2017

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