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New Books – An Overview for July 2019

Dainty

You have to be numerate to take an interest in cricket, thus I have been able to calculate that this is the twenty first occasion on which I have embarked on this article. My mother would say therefore that it has come of age, and I hope that perhaps it has.

To mark this significant anniversary I will begin with a slight departure from the norm although, as a keen collector of benefit material I probably should have done it years ago. There are eight long serving county cricketers who have been awarded benefits this year, and they are Chris Rushworth Durham), Graham Wagg (Glamorgan), Ian Cockbain (Gloucestershire), Joe Denly (Kent), Dawid Malan (Middlesex), Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire), Jade Dernbach (Surrey) and Jack Shantry (Worcestershire).

Over the years many benefit committees have produced brochures, and those have become increasingly sophisticated over the years. They are not as frequent as they once were, partly because players are more mobile and not so many put in the long service at one county needed to earn benefits, and partly no doubt because the costs of producing these glossy magazines has become prohibitive. Nonetheless many are an important biographical record of their subject and for that reason alone are well worth collecting.

Of this year’s beneficiaries I can say with certainty that the committees of Messrs Denly, Broad and Dernbach have confirmed they are producing brochures, and those of Cockbain and Shantry that they are not. No response has been received to enquiries made of Rushworth and Wagg, which suggests they are not although Wagg’s twitter feed indicates advertising was at one stage being sought. The reply I received from Malan’s committee, whilst being very prompt, did not actually answer the question although I have since been told by a friend and Middlesex supporter that something is to be published very soon.

As to Shantry although there is no brochure there is something that is, probably, even better being a small book published with the title Shantry’s Match – Shantry, whose career was ended by injury two years ago, was a journeyman all-rounder for Worcester and played 92 First Class matches over nine summers. He made just two centuries, and only twice managed a ten wicket match haul. One of each in the same game against Surrey in 2014 led an improbable victory charge and the book consists of Paul Edwards’ account of that remarkable game, and a biographical essay by George Dobell.

Monty Panesar left the game at around the same time as Shantry, although for very different reasons. Another distinction to be drawn is that Monty is not yet ready to draw a line under his First Class career and his very recent autobiography, The Full Monty, is a fascinating read.

Robin Smith, published a mid career autobiography back in 1993 under the title Quest For Number One. A few years later he retired and, since then, life has not treated him as well as it might have. His just published autobiography, The Judge, explores what has happened to one of the bravest batsman of his time since he gave up the game.

Just a few years older than Smith is the former Somerset and England all-rounder Vic Marks. Now a respected writer and broadcaster Marks autobiography is entitled Original Spin: Misadventures in Cricket, and has just been released by Allen and Unwin.

Something I would love to be able to report is that Stephen Chalke has changed his mind about retiring Fairfield Books, particularly after the imprint’s three wonderful books so far this year. I regret I cannot do so, but can at least confirm that Stephen has agreed to help one more book into print, the memoirs of former Surrey, Gloucestershire and Sussex batsman Roger Knight. I wonder if the book will reveal how often Knight has been accused of being Nick Knight’s father, a misapprehension I laboured under for years, reinforced by both having an initial V, and the pair bearing what I still maintain is a more than superficial resemblance to each other.

Another of our favourite publishers are Pitch, and they have some interesting new titles in the pipeline. I mentioned Christopher Sandford’s forthcoming biography of John Murray at the beginning of the year, but before that a new book by Jonathan Rice is due, Stories Of Cricket’s Finest Painting. The painting concerned is of play at Canterbury in 1906 in a County Championship fixture between Kent and Lancashire, won by Kent, the eventual champions, by the crushing margin of an innings and 195 runs – earlier in the summer, in the reverse fixture, it had been the turn of the Red Rose to win easily, by ten wickets.

As for the stories the book consists of those will be of how the famous painting came to be commissioned, how the match unfolded and the stories of the lives of the players involved. A few of them, like Archie MacLaren and Colin Blythe, have had their lives written before but certainly the stories of Kent’s match winners, Kenneth Hutchings with the bat and paceman Arthur Fielder with the ball, will be interesting.

In a couple of weeks’ time Pitch publish the autobiography of Franklyn Stephenson, the fine West Indian all-rounder who, thanks to joining the rebel tours to South Africa in the 1980s, never enjoyed the Test career he was patently good enough for. Stephenson will also feature heavily in a book Pitch are publishing in 2020, The Unforgiven, the story of all those rebel tourists, the lives of a number of whom spiralled rapidly downwards after the tours.

There are two books due out on the subject of Alistair Cook. One is the obligatory former England captain end of career autobiography, simply titled Memoir and published by Michael Joseph. Does Cook have a ghost? I suspect he must have, although the identity of the writer concerned is not clear from anything I have seen although, nobody’s fool, I suppose the possibility that Cook has done the writing duties himself cannot be ruled out. Also due is The Alistair Cook Story from Ollie Brett, a name that I must confess to, at the moment at least, not knowing very much about.

Recent weeks saw the release of the fourth and, for the time being last, instalment of Stephen Hill’s magnum opus on Somerset players. Somerset Cricketers 1971-2000 is a wonderful book. Further on the Somerset theme Hill’s collaborator on volumes two and three of his series has recently produced a full biography of one of the more interesting men from the earliest days of county cricket in Somerset, even if he was not one of their better players. Too Fond of Winning concerns the life of Henry Stanley.

There has been a new book on Garry Sobers this year; Sir Garfield Sober: The Baylands’ Favourite Son by Professor Keith Sanford has been published by JW McKenzie. We have also been treated to a book published in Trinidad, albeit one about an Indian Test player. Love Without Boundaries concerns the great leg spinner Subash ‘Fergie’ Gupte, and is written by his daughter.

In Australia Max Bonnell has been busy with two recent publications already this year and another one just about to appear. Those already released are Ebley Street Boys, a double biography of Norman Calloway and Frank O’Keeffe, followed by A Boyhood Hero on the subject of Johnny Taylor. About to be released from Bonnell is another volume in Ken Piesse’s ‘Nostalgia’ series. The title of the book is Dainty, thus it is a biography of Bert Ironmonger.

There have been two new books on the subject of Donald Bradman this year, which makes me wonder when the last time a year passed without one was. Of the two one is an inexpensive self-published paperback written by Peter Kettle. I reviewed Rescuing Don Bradman from Splendid Isolation here, The second, and a nicely produced limited edition of fifty, is by James Merchant. As its title suggests The Business of Bradman concerns the various ways in which ‘The Don’ made a living outside the game.

Also from the pen of Peter Kettle comes a cricket themed play, A Plea For Qualitative Justice, which concerns the thorny old question of how best to rank cricketers and is not therefore totally dissimilar in subject matter to his Bradman book, but it is certainly very different in style and approach.

Elsewhere in Australia Bernard Whimpress is publishing a small booklet in a limited edition of fifty copies, Turnarounds. As the title suggest the booklet concerns matches between New South Wales and South Australia in 2000-01 and Victoria and New South Wales matches in 1926-27 in which there were remarkable ‘turnarounds’. A more substantial work is also due soon from Whimpress who has completed a biography of the great Australian all-rounder of Victorian times, George Giffen. Another great Australian all-rounder, Frank Tarrant, who would undoubtedly have enjoyed a long Test career had he not chosen to play as a professional for Middlesex, is the subject of a biography written by Mike Coward and to be published by our friends at the Cricket Publishing Company.

Ken Piesse and Mark Browning have written Bob’s Boys, the story of how Victoria won the Sheffield Shield in 1969/70. Again this one will appear in the ‘Nostalgia’ series and will be signed by a number of those who were involved.

Finally from Australia October will see a new book from, amongst other projects, the biographer of Jack Fingleton and ‘Chuck’ Fleetwood-Smith. Greg Growden has written Cricketers at War: Cricket Heroes Who also Fought for Australia in Battle. The subject matter is clear from the title, but the scope extends beyond the two World Wars to Vietnam and beyond.

From India we have seen a second edition of Vijay Lokapally’s 2016 biography of Virat Kohli, Driven, and a new book about Kohli which was reviewed by Mohit here. Also published in India is a biography of Sri Lankan Sanath Jayasuriya, by  Chandresh Narayanan.  A self-published biography  of Molinder ‘Jimmy’ Amaranth has also appeared from Arup Saika. The title is Jimmy: The Phoenix of ’83. Also due in India is a biography of West Indies batsman Alvin Kallicharran. Less certain, but rumoured, are biographies of Abbas Ali Baig, Nari Contractor and Laxman Sivaramakrishnan.

Once again there are no tour books, well not in the old fashioned way. We do however have Standard Bearers, a collection of Gideon Haigh’s writing on Australia’s 2018/19 international cricket  schedule.

There have been a couple of retrospective tour accounts however. With We Are The Invincibles Indian writer Anindya Dutta revisited the famous tour of 1948, and did a thoroughly good job of it. The second is more interesting, in the sense that it deals with two trips that have not previously been the subject of books. The West Indian trip to England of 1933 is one,and the Englishmen’s return trip of 1934/35 the other. The book is written by Richard Bentley, and its title is A War To The Knife.

Another tour book which looks to be a worthwhile investment is Prashant Kidambe’s Cricket Country, an account of a long forgotten visit to English shores in 1911 by a team from India, some twenty years before the Indians’ inaugural Test was played.

There are also two books due to appear in respect of the second tied Test, played out in Madras between India and Australia in 1986. One is Border’s Battlers by Michael Sexton and the other is from Ronald Cardwell and the Cricket Publishing Company. That one is titled The Tied Test in Madras and in addition to standard edition there is, for those of us who like that sort of thing, a multi signed and specially bound limited edition.

In the ‘miscellaneous’ category we have had a very nice collector’s item, Jules Akel’s delightful Cricket Tickets, and on the subject of limited editions we have had a book from David Battersby, The Early Years of Gilbert Laird Jessop. Battersby has also produced one of his booklets, The Auckland Single Wicket Competition 1968-1973, and I would like to think another one must be due fairly soon.and from our friends at Max Books the first in a series of booklets about interesting characters who have played for Lancashire, Geoff Clayton. 

And finally, on this very day, a new limited edition booklet, Harry’s Mission, is being published by Red Rose Books. Quite how this has managed to jump Samuel Lunt and Ralph Whitehead in the queue is something I do not know, and I fear that the monograph I crave on the subject of the publisher’s father is receding far into the distance. But I am impressed by Martin Tebay’s enthusiasm for this one. The subject matter is certainly unexpected. The Harry in question was the manager of the Boston Red Stockings baseball team and in 1874 he brought his charges to England to promote the American game, with part of the programme involving cricketing contests. A review will follow soon.

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 2020 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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