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New Books – An Overview for July 2020

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The world is not the same place as it was when I wrote this piece in January of this year and, whilst the coming days should see a resumption of some international cricket, it is going to be some time before the old order of things is re-established, if indeed it ever is. Publishing has, perhaps, not been as badly affected as some areas of life, but bookselling certainly has, and only now is some semblance of normality returning.

At this stage I am not aware of any titles that the pandemic has actually cost us, at least not from the sort of titles that I normally look at. There are casualties however and, looking slightly further afield, I am for example, aware of the lack of some county annuals this year, and I have yet to come across a brochure from any of those unfortunate long serving county pros whose benefits were supposed to be happening this year.

In these strange times it is therefore reassuring that some things never change, one of which is that there were a number of titles that I missed last time round, so I will begin with a look at those. As usual it is a lengthy list.

I will begin with Anthony Collis’ booklet looking at clerics who have played for Worcestershire, and Extra Cover, a fine journal from the Stourbridge and District Cricket Society. I have also reviewed a very good book on cricket and cricketers from Scotland, and rather closer to home the first in what I hope will be a series of booklets from Hampshire Cricket Heritage. Tim Cawkwell has treated us to another of his books on the previous season’s cricket. Once again Cricket on the Edge expands his horizons from previous years.

Rather bulkier in size were Michael Gegg’s Those Were The Days, and Thomas Blow’s first book, The Honorary Tyke, examining Sachin Tendulkar’s year at Yorkshire in 1992, and a good deal more besides. A couple of our regular publishers have also contributed, Red Rose Books with Archie and Reggie Go Wild At Aigburth, and Hats off to Dean. John McKenzie is distributing copies of a bibliographer’s delight, Duncan Anderson’s Early Books on Nottinghamshire Cricket. Finally in this category is a privately published booklet that I reviewed last week, Simon Lawton Smith’s Cardus and Barbe: Gathering Rosebuds.

In addition we have had a couple of books that guests have reviewed for us, Keeping Up by Michael Bates and Tom Huelin, and an excellent book on the county cricket grounds of Kent by Howard Milton and Peter Francis.

So what new titles do we have to look forward to? I don’t suppose bookies are taking any bets on what will be the biggest selling cricket book of 2020. It is bound to be Bob Willis: A Cricketer and a Gentleman which we can expect from Hodder and Stoughton in August. The outpouring of grief in December last year at the passing of every cricket lover’s favourite curmudgeon was noteworthy and, although Willis produced an autobiography, Lasting the Pace, back in 1985, a full look at the life of one of England’s finest fast bowlers is certainly due. The book has been written by Mike Dickson and edited by Bob’s brother, David. 

Another England captain and noted broadcaster who was taken from us far too early was Tony Greig. In Greigy’s case there have already been two posthumous biographies, one by David Tossell and one by his mother and son, Joyce and Mark. Whether there is therefore room for a further look at Greig’s life might be questionable, but Greigy was a huge character, and his latest biographer is the former county cricketer Andy Murtagh, so I suspect that If Not Me Who? The Story of Tony Greig, The Reluctant Rebel will be well worth buying, even for those who already own one or both of the earlier books.

Dennis Amiss never led England, but was still a fine batsman over many years and his autobiography Not Out At Close of Play: A Life in Cricket is due next year. Former Kent and Derbyshire seamer James Graham Brown, like Murtagh now a retired schoolmaster, has been Amiss’s collaborator on the project.

I am aware of one other autobiography from an English cricketer that is due and that should be with us in November. Tales from the Front Line: The Autobiography of Luke Fletcher is, like the Greig book, coming from Pitch. His lack of international caps has not prevented seam bowler Fletcher being a huge favourite with the Nottinghamshire faithful and if the man charged with the writing duties, Dave Bracegirdle, does anything like as good a job as he did with Franklyn Stephenson’s autobiography last year this will be a good one.

At the end of October Bloomsbury are due to publish Chris Waters’ The Men Who Raised the Bar. The publishers’ blurb states that the book charts the growth of the record through nearly one hundred and fifty years of Test cricket. It is a journey that takes in a legendary line of famous names including Sir Donald Bradman, Sir Leonard Hutton, Sir Garfield Sobers and Walter Hammond, along with less heralded players whose stories are brought back into the light. Drawing on the reflections of the record-holders, Waters profiles the men who raised the bar and their historic performances.

Elsewhere a biography of Rohit Sharma by Vijay Lokapally is being publicised in India and in Australia, where there are a number of projects that I have previously announced still awaiting publication, one new one is Invincible: The Life and Times of Sam Loxton that has been written by Martin Rogers and is to be published by Ken Piesse’s imprint, cricketbooks.com.au.

Beyond these there are a few other books I am aware of. Patrick Ferriday is currently writing a biography of the great Yorkshire all-rounder Wilfred Rhodes. There has only ever been one life of Rhodes, written by Sidney Rogerson and published back in 1960, thirteen years before Rhodes’ death, so another look at the life of a man who took more than four thousand First Class wickets is long overdue.

With his publisher’s hat on Ferriday is also involved in another biography, this time a triple one with first time author John Flatley. The subjects here are the Headleys, George, Ron and Dean. The first great West Indian batsman, grandfather George, has been the subject of a number of books, but this is the first time that the interesting lives of son Ron, a long serving Worcestershire batsman (and, in 1973, West Indies Test player) and grandson Dean have been examined in any detail. Dean is, of course, the Middlesex, Kent and England seamer who promised so much before a persistent back injury ensured that his First Class career ended at the age of just 29. 

Two of our favourite self-publishers also have booklets in the offing. David Battersby tells me that he is currently working on a number of projects, albeit the only one likely to see the light of day in the near future is one concerning the legendary Gilbert Jessop’s 41 First Class appearances at the famous Cheltenham College ground, three of which were against the touring Australians. Philip Paine, he of the Innings Complete series and also a couple of bulkier volumes, is currently working on a series of monographs which I believe he plans to start publishing in the near future. Philip has been researching a number of lesser known England Test players of the dim and distant past and whilst he has not uncovered enough to contemplate writing full biographies of any of them he nonetheless plans to share the fruits of his labours with us.

Whilst on the subject of self-publishers Gideon Haigh has joined their ranks for, as far as I am aware, his first limited edition. To reflect the highest Test score of the immortal Victor Trumper there are 214 copies of Cricket in Mind. The book is a collection of essays, some old and some new, on men and matters historical and, having sold out already, is by definition a collector’s item.

And then there are Trumper and Bradman, the two men who get mentions most frequently in these pieces. Trumper has very recently been the subject of this splendid tome, the success of which has, I understand, persuaded Messrs Schofield and Lloyd to look into the viability of a similar volume on Bradman. As for Trumper himself I understand we are to have a new statistical work, noting his performances in each of the 533 matches he appeared in across all levels of the game. The author is Alfred James. 

Still in Australia the lockdown in New Zealand has unavoidably delayed the release of the leather bound multi signed edition of The Cricket Publishing Company’s biography of Stewie Dempster, Second Only To Bradman, the standard edition of which was some released some months ago. Those who ordered the special edition will be gratified to know it has now been released, so we will hopefully carry a review of that shortly.

In the past I have announced a number of forthcoming books from the CPC stable, and all are still jockeying for a position in the release schedule now that lockdown has eased. One that might sneak out first however is Zivko – The Spinner From Hell, a small hard-back of about 100 pages and the story of Tony Radanovic, a man born in a German labour camp who enjoyed a successful minor cricket career in Sydney, Adelaide and Queensland.

There is one other book that will be of interest in the biographical field and that is The Commonwealth of Cricket by the acclaimed Indian writer Ramachandra Guha. It is a book that has autobiographical elements to it but I understand that Guha has indicated it is less an autobiography and more an account of cricket he has seen and cricketers he has known. Another acclaimed writer is David Frith, whose autobiography, Caught England Bowled Australia, was originally published back in 1997 and I understand that it is hoped an updated version will appear in the not too distant future.

The English counties are going to have a rough time in 2020, and there is a marked lack of books on county cricket this year, although there is one to mention. Before doing so I will plug a gap from five years ago by mentioning Pears 150: The Life and Times of Worcestershire CCC 1865-2014 by Andrew Thomas. The book is 540 pages of A4 sized book comprising half a million words and is still available. The reason for mentioning it now is that a baby brother has appeared in the form of a supplement bringing the story up to the end of last summer. The book should be available from the club shop, but if all else fails let us know and we will endeavour to put you in touch with Andrew.

No year, even one as strange as 2020, would be complete without something new from the Sussex Cricket Museum and whilst they will not be as active as in the past it is expected that there will be two publications this year. The first will be a monograph about the stirring deeds for the county of the Zimbabwean Murray Goodwin. Cricketarchive tells me that ‘Muzza’ averaged 49.22 for the county, which is a decent average, but was still a surprise to me as the bloke seemed to score a century every time he went to the crease. The author is Bruce Talbot.

The second museum publication is one that I have mentioned in passing before, the first in a series of six planned booklets about the county’s double centurions. I already knew that the author was Clive Paish, but hadn’t realised that the books were chronological rather than looking at particular innings. The first will cover the period up to the Great War, so if my arithmetic is correct (and I have to confess it is not noted for its accuracy) the legendary CB Fry will merit no fewer than a dozen mentions. It is hoped that the limited edition booklet will be signed by the great man’s grandson, also Charles, who celebrated his eightieth birthday earlier this year and who, primarily whilst an undergraduate at Oxford between 1959 and 1961, enjoyed a fifty match First Class career himself.

Moving on to matters historical we have three more interesting books due from Pitch. The first, later this month, is A Corner of Every Foreign Field: Cricket’s Journey from English Game to Global Sport from Tim Brooks, which the publishers describe as an innovative and thought-provoking take on the history of cricket, looking beyond the scorecards to the pivotal issues of class, politics and imperialism that have shaped the game today. Author Tim Brooks skilfully delves into the past while providing a unique vision for the future of cricket.

The second of these titles will follow on shortly afterwards and is Last Wicket Stand: Searching for Redemption, Revival and a Reason to Persevere in English County Cricket by Richard Clarke. I will quote the publishers again who describe the book as a refreshingly honest examination of county cricket, middle age, identity and coping with change. In his 50th year, Richard Clarke followed his beloved Essex CCC throughout the 2019 season, the last before the introduction of a controversial new competition that threatened to undermine domestic cricket in England forever. 

Last of the three, due in August, is The Thin White Line: The Inside Story of Cricket’s Greatest Scandal by Nick Greenslade. There are of course a few candidates for that title, and the one Greenslade has chosen is the gripping account of the spot-fixing scandal of 2010 which sent shockwaves through cricket. Taking the reader hour by hour through the fateful events of that August and beyond, it reveals how the News of the World uncovered the criminality of the Pakistan captain and his two best bowlers, and how its star reporter would follow them to jail.

Matters historical also feature heavily in the titles that Red Rose Books publish and there are three definitely in the offing from them. The first two are the fifth and sixth titles in Martin Tebay’s Red Rose Cricket Records Series and will appear, like their predecessors, in limited editions of thirty copies. The fifth is Red Rose Australians which recalls a match in 1907 when what remains the county’s record ninth wicket partnership was set by two Australians, Les Poidevin and Alec Kermode. The sixth, Alec Watson, goes back even further to 1876 when, in the county’s only ever First Class match at Rochdale, Watson took the first Lancashire hat-trick.

Every now and again Red Rose stray outside the county boundaries, often to Norfolk on the other side of the country and that is where their third offering comes from, Stephen Musk’s From Nightfighter to Scriptwriter, is the story of “JOC” Orton, a Norfolk cricketer, and very much more besides. This time there will be fifty copies but they are likely to fly off the shelves just as speedily as the two Lancashire booklets. Without wishing to give the game away I will simply make the observation that there are a not inconsiderable number of people who will buy ‘anything on Bradman’.

Turning now to the spirit of cricket that, perhaps slightly hackneyed, phrase appears in two forthcoming titles. The first is This is Cricket: In The Spirit of the Game by Daniel Melamud and Steve Waugh, a book which, from the publishers’ description, sounds like an essentially pictorial book dealing with the many and varied locations in which the game is played. The other is Spirit of Cricket: Reflections on Play and Life by former England Captain Mike Brearley, a man whose thoughts on the sometimes elusive concept are certain to be worth reading.

What of the publishing programme of the ACS? They have a number of titles coming out in the coming months, hopefully three in August followed by three more in November. The first is a purely statistical offering, West Indies: 1989/90 to 1998/99 of which the Association say, the seventh volume in our series of ‘Hard to Get’ scores series contains scorecards of the 246 first-class matches played in the West Indies in the ten seasons from 1989/90 to 1998/99, a large proportion of which can otherwise only be found in less substantial publications such as newspapers and magazines. It also includes a brief narrative introducing each season, and league tables for each season’s domestic first-class competition. The book is edited by Keith Walmsley who, now that is completed, will hopefully be able to concentrate on his next selection of Brief Candles.

Another essentially statistical book is Minor Counties 1914, this one edited by Julian Lawton Smith. This continues the series of books about Minor County cricket in the 19th and 20th centuries. It includes full scorecards for every Minor County game played in 1914, augmented by detailed information including season’s and career averages, detailed biographical information on the players, and a Roll of Honour for Minor County cricketers killed in the First World War.

Finally in August we will have another volume in the excellent Lives in Cricket series, Johnny Lawrence by Steve Bindman. The book covers the life of Yorkshireman Lawrence, a leg spinning all rounder who played 281 matches for Somerset in the years following World War Two.. As a coach Lawrence influenced Yorkshire players as recently as Ashley Metcalfe in the 1980s. Geoffrey Boycott has written a short foreword giving his recollections of Lawrence.

Moving on to November we will get A Game Divided: Triumphs and Troubles in Yorkshire Cricket from Jeremy Lonsdale. This follows on from Jeremy’s A Game Sustained: The impact of the First World War on Yorkshire cricket 1914-20 and examines one of the most successful sides in cricket history. It considers why, despite all its success, it was at times unpopular and subject to much criticism.

Also due in November is A Tall Story: The Life of Nigel Plews by Andrew Hignell. The book will be published in the Cricket Witness series and is based on Plews’ own notes and information provided by his family. It will tell the story, with many personal recollections, of the former police detective sergeant who was unusual enough in becoming a First Class umpire without having played the First Class game, and who then went on to stand in eleven Test matches.

Last but not least is the flagship of the ACS range, the Overseas First-Class Annual 2020. Now in its twelfth edition it will doubtless be rather slimmer than in previous years, but will maintain the ACS’s commitment to ensure that all First Class scorecards are available in print. It will contain the full scores of all matches played throughout the world in 2019/20, together with matches played outside England and Wales in the 2020 season. The book also incorporates a brief narrative for each ICC full member nation and final tables for the various competitions.

I am now almost at the end of this feature however before I finish there is one news item that is well worth reporting, that being the second coming of Fairfield Books. I am sure that all regular readers of cricket books will be delighted to know that Stephen Chalke has found a buyer for the company and also that, for a while at least, he will remain involved to assist in the hand over. I am not yet aware of any titles that may emerge from this, but hopefully some firm news of the new owners’ plans will be available in the not too distant future. As for Stephen himself he has been working for some time, with others, on a history of the Lansdown Club in Somerset. For various reasons we do not normally notice club histories in this feature, but having had a few insights into the contents of this one and given that Stephen is at the helm it sounds like a cracker. In any case how could anyone ignore a book entitled Horse and Cart to Helicopter?

One new book is due from Christopher Saunders Publishing and that is Robin Brodhurst’s book about his grandfather Harry Altham, with a foreword by Bob Barber. There will be a brief biography of a man who was a good enough batsman to appear more than fifty times in First Class cricket, albeit his is better known as an administraor and historian. The body of the book then consists of the correspondence between his Altham and Don Bradman around the time of the throwing controversy of the late 1950s.

To all who have stayed with me until now well done, you are nearly at the end. For future books  I have a couple more mentions, one for a book that I know is forthcoming, and another for one that I hope soon will be. The first is Andy Collier’s follow up to his splendid Across The Oceans of two years ago, a book that looked at the early history of Ashes cricket through from the perspective of the ships that took the England touring parties to the Antipodes between 1861 and 1963. The follow-up will, naturally, deal with the other side of that particular coin, the Australian voyages to the mother country.

My last mention is then about a tour book, and one that has already been written, but has yet to find a publisher. The subject matter strikes me as fascinating, being the tour of India by an Australian side in 1935/36. There was no Bradman, nor indeed any of the other leading Australians who, at the time, were undertaking a Test series in South Africa. Nonetheless the Australians could still call on senior players of the calibre of Charles Macartney, Jack Ryder, ‘Stork’ Hendry and Bert Ironmonger. In what proved to be an exciting four match ‘Test’ series the visitors scored two straightforward victories over their hosts before the Indians, inspired by the bowling of Nissar and the batting of Syed Wazir Ali, won the other two. The author is Megan Ponsford, granddaughter of the legendary Bill, who can be found tweeting as @megspon.

And finally, in the past I have, in writing this feature, generally restricted myself to giving each book a single mention, the purpose of which is to avoid duplication. It does however seem to me that where I have previewed a book in the past that has still not appeared, but whose release I am aware is imminent, that it should get another brief plug, thus these four get in:-

Just a Few Lines……  by David Warner (on Brian Close),

Speed Merchants by Gulu Ezekiel and Vijay Lokapally (a history of Indian pace bowling),

Mike Coward’s biography of Frank Tarrant,

and Tony Laughton’s book on Lord Brackley’s MCC tour of West Indies of 1905.

Comments

Interesting to see what’s in the works. Nothing from me, at this stage, I’m afraid. I have been doing some digging around Les Poidevin (mentioned above) but I fear that only four other people are interested in him, which is not a great starting point for a book.

Comment by Max Bonnell | 10:59am BST 5 July 2020

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