One More RunMartin Chandler |
Author: Chalke, Stephen
Rating: 5 stars
Back in November of 2019 I had the great pleasure of reviewing Fairfield Books’ final offering, a valedictory celebration of the life and work of the imprint and its founder, Stephen Chalke. Amongst the 900+ words I wrote were these; The joy of Through the Remembered Gate is the appearance of a new book from a favourite writer. The sadness is the knowledge that it will be the last.
2020 has not been a good year. In fact I’d go as far as to say it has been a disaster for all (save obviously for those who have friends in high places and had the ability to turn their hands to knocking out a bit of PPE), but if you look hard enough there have been a couple of unexpected pleasures. The first was that the news that the Fairfield imprint will continue, having been acquired by TriNorth, and the second that my assertion I had read Stephen’s last book was some way wide of the mark.
First of all we have had Horse and Cart to Helicopter and now One More Run. Now this one is a second edition of a book Fairfield originally published back in 2000, but that isn’t the point. Stephen has tinkered with the narrative, so it is a genuine second edition rather than a reprint, and as importantly he has published it himself. All of this goes to prove that he has not been able to call it a day after all, and I am confident that this is the first of a steady trickle of post retirement projects. Whatever might be forthcoming in the future however Stephen is not likely to better One More Run, and it will certainly remain a perfect illustration of all the best features of his writing. So what is it about?
The cover of this slim cloth bound edition, unlike the original paperback, is a photograph of Stephen with the man whose thoughts the book showcases, the Gloucestershire and Nottinghamshire off spinner of the 1950s and 1960s, Bryan ‘Bomber’ Wells. With an unconventional approach to his art Bomber’s run up was nothing more than a gesture to convention, and sometimes not even that. He was no mean bowler though and had he played in an era in which the England selectors were less well served by quality off spinners he may well have been capped.
Perhaps Bomber’s greatest talent however was as a raconteur, and in addition to that there was clearly a chemistry between the writer and former player which has resulted in a hugely entertaining book. It is neither biography nor ghosted autobiography, although the mining of Bomber’s memories means that there are certainly elements of both present.
Ultimately the inspiration for One More Run comes from a match at the Cheltenham festival in 1999 between Gloucestershire and Worcestershire. Bomber and Stephen were both there, and they were joined by a couple of friends of Bomber, and the decision is made to tell the story of a match on the same ground between Gloucestershire and Yorkshire that took place in 1957.
The Yorkshire game was chosen by the old Gloucestershire left arm spinner, once England cap and later First Class umpire Sam Cook as his benefit. Bomber played and his two friends were both on the ground. George Emmett was Gloucestershire captain in those days and his daughter also helps to tell the story, as do Tom Graveney, Tony Brown and Arthur Milton, who all played in the game for Gloucestershire. There are contributions from Yorkshire too, in the main from Ray Illingworth, but others as well.
The match did not run its full course, and there were only two days play, but the fortunes ebbed and flowed and, in the end, Gloucestershire just managed to get to a fourth innings target of 69 with two wickets to spare. The way the match is dealt with is straightforward. There is a chapter to each session of play, and one for each interval. The match is seen through the eyes of all involved and is a delightful description of the way the game was played in the 1950s and the way in which professional cricketers lived their lives.
The conversation, naturally, continues during the intervals but ranges further and becomes more discursive, Bomber being taken back to his childhood on the one hand, and to his thoughts on the players of and since his time. His views on coaching are particularly illuminating.
To a significant degree One More Run is Bomber’s book, and it certainly wouldn’t have been the same without his input, but it is what it is because of the way it is written. Stephen is almost just a fly on the wall as Bomber and his various guests tell the story. He gives a gentle steer occasionally, but has the priceless ability of making the reader feel he or she is there as well, sat listening to Bomber’s story, and rather hoping at some point to be handed the bag of tomatoes that is being passed around at lunch on the first day.
One More Run may not be the highest profile book that Stephen has written, but it is right up there with his (numerous) other five star books and anyone who enjoyed any of those and has not read the first edition has a treat in store. The print run of this edition is not large, and at £14 inclusive of UK postage and packing* it will doubtless sell out soon enough, but for those who miss out a copy of the first edition will be a very satisfactory substitute, and not too difficult to find on the second hand market.
*Being self-published this one is available only from Stephen himself if you wish to be put in touch with the great man email us on firstname.lastname@example.org and we will facilitate contact