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New Books – An Overview for January 2021

Despite the global pandemic and the disruption that has brought with it there have still been cricket books appearing and, perhaps, the various lockdowns that have affected the major cricket playing nations have led to many more being written. Will they see the light of day? Hopefully at some point they will all be published in some form or other, but normal service seems unlikely to return for some time yet.

The traditional major publishers seem to be rather losing interest in cricket, and at this stage I can find only one title due from any of them. In 2019 Allen & Unwin published Vic Marks’ acclaimed autobiography, Original Spin, and two years on they are showcasing Marks’ talents as a writer once more with a collection of essays from the recently retired Guardian cricket correspondent. Late Cut: Musings on Cricket is due in June.

In recent years sports specialists Pitch have been the most productive publishing house in the UK and they have an interesting selection of books due in the first few months of next year the first of which is due to appear this month. Sachin and Azhar at Cape Town has been written by Arunabha Sengupta and Abhishek Mukherjee. The backdrop is an exhilarating partnership between the two Indian batsmen in the Newlands Test in 1997 but the book as a whole is rather more discursive, representing a wide ranging discussion between its two authors, both of whose interests extend well beyond the boundary rope.

March will see Pitch publish Bails and Boardrooms, the autobiography of David Nash. A wicketkeeper batsman for Middlesex between 1997 and 2009 Nash, it would seem, in common with a number of his contemporaries, had more than his fair share of mental health problems. Nash’s story will be particularly interesting as he seems to have overcome his troubles, or perhaps turned them to his advantage, as he has built up a very successful business since leaving the game.

Also due in March is a second book from Thomas Blow who, last year, gave us The Honorary Tyke. Just to show he does not have a northern bias Blow has written Kings in Waiting, a book on the subject of Somerset cricket and the West Country county’s succession of near misses in recent years as they have striven to finally bring a first County Championship to Taunton – this year maybe?

There will doubtless be an element of romance in Pitch’s next title, Do They Play Cricket in Ireland? by David Townsend, which is due in April. The book promises to chart the huge strides made by the Irish over the last quarter of a century, the shocks they have meted out in the game’s shorter formats and their promising start to life as a Test nation. On that basis there will not, sadly, be an account of that remarkable day at Sion Mills in 1969, but then a full history of the game on the Emerald Isle would have to be a weighty tome indeed.

And finally from Pitch, for the first half of 2021, is possibly the most interesting of all; And Bring The Darkness Home: The Tony Dell Story by Greg Milam. Dell was an Australian pace bowler who was, twice, capped by his country in the early 1970s. Ultimately however it is once again mental health issues that will be the focal point of the book. Uniquely amongst top class cricketers Dell was a veteran of the Vietnam War, although it would not be until he got into his 60s that, with a diagnosis of PTSD, he became fully aware of the scars his involvement had left.

Amongst the niche publishers the New Year will see a new book from Boundary Books, although not the one I expected. A monograph/tribute to David Rayvern Allen has been planned for some time, and owner Mike Down recognises that it is something he must do, but we will have to wait a little longer for that. What he is doing however is publishing a new book by Tony Laughton on the subject of Albert Craig, The Surrey Poet. Laughton’s biography of Craig was The Mac’s first five star book, and that was followed up by a bibliography that I reviewed here. In the succeeding years a good deal more has been discovered and the new publication is, effectively, an exercise in presenting that new information.

Whilst on the subject of Boundary Books I will mention one other title, not because they have published it, but because they are the only source of this book that I am aware of. A Tour but for The War is a book about the England tour of the sub-continent that would have taken place in 1939/40 had the Second World War not put paid to the plans of the BCCI and MCC. The book is written by Guy Curry, he of a famous collection of cricket books that was auctioned off with propitious timing in advance of the financial crash of 2008. The somewhat esoteric choice of subject matter is explained by the fact that Guy’s maternal grandfather, Flight Lieutenant AJ Holmes, was the man selected to lead the MCC tourists. The book has just been self published, very professionally indeed, in a limited edition of 111 copies.

Red Rose Books have a number of books and booklets due in the New Year. Martin Tebay intends to keep going with the Red Rose Records series that I have much enjoyed, but he does intend to, no doubt on the principle that you should always leave your audience wanting more, end that after reaching volume eleven – so there will be five more. Martin also expects to publish an account of Lancashire’s successful 1904 County Championship campaign. From other writers I understand that a biography of Jack Crossland from the pen of Stuart Brodkin will appear and that Gerry Wostenholme’s look at the cricketing rivalry between Brazil and Argentina in the 1920s is also expected. Other probables are biographical works on Frank Hayes, Geoff ‘Noddy’ Pullar and Albert Hornby, the latter being the son of the better known ‘Monkey’ Hornby. Albert led Lancashire between 1908 and 1914 albeit, unlike his father, he never played Test cricket.

In Lancashire we are fortunate to have two small publishers with a special interest in the Red Rose and Max Books have two titles due for the first half of 2021. One is on the subject of Hornby Senior, and is in a scrapbook type format and runs to more than 300 pages. It will cover the whole of Hornby’s life and not just his cricket and is written by two eminent local historians. The second, and like the Hornby this will appear in a limited edition, is Brian Bearshaw’s Diary of a Journalist, which will cover the summers of 1964 and 1965, one of the most turbulent periods in Lancashire’s history.

Whilst on the subject of Max Books I should also mention its soulmate, the Neville Cardus Archive. The archive has two new publications in the course of preparation those being firstly a bibliography of Sir Neville’s work, and also Cardus in an Australian Light which, as the title suggests, will concentrate on Sir Neville’s experiences with Australians, both in England and on his visits downunder, the longest of which lasted for the duration of World War Two.

One of the consequences of the Covid-19 restrictions is that those charged with the task of running the Sussex Cricket Museum have been unable to access their premises, so all previously announced plans are on hold. When, and I hope it is very soon, they are able to pick up the threads of their publishing programme, I am looking forward to a steady flow of the titles that have previously been announced but have yet to appear. In addition I understand that plans to publish a biography of Tommy Cook are well advanced. Cook was a stalwart of the county’s batting between the wars. In addition he was a centre forward with Brighton and Hove Albion and later Bristol Rovers who was, in 1925, capped once by England. Tragically he took his own life in 1950.

Roger Heavens has recently completed the next volume in his long standing project to make available all of Arthur Haygarth’s unpublished work. He is now up to Volume 22 of the monumental Scores and Biographies, the seventh ‘new’ volume he has published. This one will appear in the New Year, and covers the 1885 season.

The only other county that I know for sure is planning something is Worcestershire. Tim Jones of the county’s Heritage Group has written a variation on the theme of a Who’s Who. For his project he has looked only at the 52 men who have appeared in First Class matches for the county, but whose appearances did not include any in the County Championship, as a result of which the 52 were not included when numbers were recently allocated retrospectively to all who had appeared in the Championship. Of the 17 who survive all but one have shared their stories with Jones, as have the families of many of those now deceased, so the book should be an interesting read.

And what of our self publishers? There is good news here in that Philip Paine has almost completed the first of his monographs on the subject of lesser known England cricketers of the dim and distant past. The first will be around 150 pages on one Test man Sandford Schultz. Clearly a book of that length is rather more than a monograph, but Paine is unwilling to describe it as a biography as, despite his tracking down much information on his subject significant gaps remain.

Occasional missives from Dave Battersby with copies of his latest monographs have been a considerable pleasure in recent years and I understand that the next two are in the course of preparation. The first revisits one of his 2020 publications, The Tours of the Pakistan Eaglets to the UK in the 1950s.  This year’s model will include a good deal of new information that has come to light on those tours as well as, as I predicted, a look at the Eaglets’ final tour in 1963. The second will look at a man whose name will be unfamiliar to many, but anyone who regularly watched televised cricket in 1978 and 1979 will remember Glamorgan’s South African overseas player, Peter Swart.

Just a few weeks ago an excellent piece of research appeared from Adrian Gault on the life of James Southerton. Extending that research Gault’s next book will reproduce in full the reports that Southerton sent home from Australia in 1876/77 for the English press. These reports will be accompanied by Gault’s annotations on the people the tourists met, the incidents referenced, and the places visited. He has also located a number of photographs to accompany the text.

After so many years of eagerly awaiting news of the activities of Fairfield Books it does rather go against the grain to treat Stephen Chalke as a self publisher, although that is precisely what he has become as he revises and republishes One More Run, one of the earliest Fairfield ventures. Stephen is being a little coy about future activities but is determined to see into print a second volume of reminiscences from former Hampshire batsman Alan ‘Punchy’ Rayment which, sadly, remained unfinished when Punchy, aged 91, passed away in October last year. Stephen also admits to having a role in the preparation of a forthcoming autobiography from the former Surrey, Gloucestershire, Sussex and Surrey (again!) all-rounder Roger Knight.

By way of a digression I should add that in addition to Stephen himself still appearing in this piece so to do Fairfield, now under the stewardship of TriNorth Limited. Their first book, Golden Summers, has just appeared and I am told they expect there to be a couple more to follow in the coming months. I know not what the subjects might be, but hope that perhaps one is the retrospective account of the 1953/54 England tour of West Indies that was not quite ready before Stephen handed over the reins.

Regular readers of our reviews will be aware that recent weeks have seen the launch by Richard Miller of a new series of booklets reproducing material about Scottish cricket from the dim and distant past. We have already reviewed the first three, here, here and here, and there are three more in the first ‘batch’, their subjects being Fifty Years of Angus Cricket, Nine Inch Derbies 1881-1934 and Notable Cricketers of Tayside. There are also another half dozen in the course of preparation and due soon those being on the subjects of cricket in Aberdeenshire, the Perthshire and Brechin Clubs, the game in Leith, a profile of CT Mannes and a collection of profiles from The Scottish Referee.

Moving from Scotland to Australia what is the news from the Cricket Publishing Company? Recent weeks have the release of Victor Trumper, The Pupil and the Master and, whilst on the theme of Trumper, a beautifully produced re-publication of an article on the great man that was written by teammate Monty Noble. My copy of I Once Knew A Man has yet to arrive from the antipodes and, as I understand it consists of only a dozen or so pages, is likely on a price per page basis to be my most expensive ever purchase. It will be reviewed as soon as the opportunity arises.

As for next year Mr Cardwell still has as many plates spinning as ever but sources suggest that there are at least five titles that might appear in the next few months. The most likely are a book about New Zealander Doug Freeman by Mr Cardwell himself, whose story promises to be an interesting one. Capped twice by New Zealand in 1933 as a schoolboy Freeman had played his final First Class match before his twentieth birthday. The other four favourites to make it into print are a history of the St George club in Sydney from Mr Cardwell and Nathan Anderson (Brian Booth’s grandson), a book on First Class cricketers who have represented the Glenelg club from David Jenkins, a collection of essays from Australian cricket lover and former politician Rodney Cavalier, and a biography of Bert Kortlang, a man who was very much more than a cricketer, from the pen of Rob Franks.

The above aside there are always a few outside bets with the CPC. This time they are a biography of Frank Ward from Mr Cardwell, a book intriguingly titled Every Picture Tells A Story, which is a collaboration between Mr Cardwell and John Benaud, and I am still hopeful that the autobiography of Jack D’Arcy, the New Zealand batsman who toured England in 1958 before going on to a highly successful career in business, will appear before too long. One previously mentioned that we won’t, sadly, be seeing in the foreseeable future is Mr Cardwell’s biography of Jim Burke, but as partial recompense another issue of Between Wickets may appear.

In other news from Australia the New Year will see an autobiography from Jack Potter published by Ken Piesse in his Nostalgia series. Potter was a superb all-round sportsman and a fine batsman for Victoria in the late 1950s and early 1960s who came as close as is possible to get to a Test place without actually winning one when he was twelfth man at the MCG in 1963/64. Elsewhere in Australia I understand that a biography of the last Invincible, Neil Harvey, is due from the pen of Ashley Mallett, and not before time. I am also led to believe that a biography of Vic Richardson is ready for publication as well. I should also mention another book that has appeared, Mike Sexton’s excellent celebration of Barry Richards’ 1970/71 Sheffield Shield campaign, The Summer of Barry.

The only tour book of the year is due from Australia, from multiple award winning author Geoff Lemon. Steve Smith’s Men received much acclaim on publication, and The Comeback Summer takes a considered look at the 2019 English summer and the returns of Steve Smith after ‘Sandpapergate’ and Ben Stokes after missing the preceding Ashes series as a result of his having unfinished business in the Bristol Crown Court.

Regular readers may recall from last June my review of the sumptuous production that was Victor Trumper and the Golden Age of Australian Cricket by the two Peters, Lloyd and Schofield. That one sold out in the blink of an eye, and doubtless their next venture, due I believe this month, will do likewise. The new one is a very similar exercise concerning that other Australian immortal Sir Donald Bradman and will doubtless be available just as fleetingly. As I type this piece I understand that yet another such volume is planned. The details are a little elusive but it sounds like the subject may be Bradman again, the forthcoming volume covering only the years up to World War Two.

I had hoped there might be a good crop of books from the sub-continent this year, but sadly it seems not. One has appeared recently, The Hitman: The Rohit Sharma Story by Vijay Lokapally and G Krishnan, but that apart all I am aware of at this stage are a couple of other titles due from Gulu Ezekiel. The first is likely to be My Cricket Hero, in which Gulu combines an essay on his personal hero, Ekki Solkar, with eleven similar pieces by eleven other writers. Gulu is also working on a fifth edition of his biography of MS Dhoni as well as another book, details of which I regret I am unable to disclose at this stage. Sadly what he is not currently engaged on is working on a biography/monograph of 1950s all-rounder Dattu Phadkar, but I will keep on nagging.

The ACS have some interesting looking books due in the first half of the year. One will, of course, be their flagship International Cricket Yearbook 2021, albeit this complete record of a year’s cricket will doubtless be somewhat slimmer than usual. Unlike this writer, who hopes the results of his recent efforts at achieving a BMI of 25 will be permanent, it is to be hoped that by 2022 the yearbook will have its normal girth restored. The 2021 volume is due in February and in May there will be another essentially statistical volume, Hard to Get Scores Volume 8: Pakistan 1984/85 to 1986/87.

Of wider popular appeal should be the two new additions to each of the Cricket Witness and Lives in Cricket in series. In the former February will see the release of  Fly at a Higher Game by Andrew Hignell, which will tell the story of Glamorgan’s elevation to the County Championship a century ago and of Neath solicitor TAL Whittington, the man whose efforts off the field led to this historic event. May will then see the appearance of Cricket in a Multicultural Society : A History of Cricket Malaysia by Roy Morgan, an important new book which will draw out social and racial themes and the effect of colonialism on the game in Malaysia.

As for the Lives in Cricket series the long awaited (by me anyway) story of Derbyshire’s Bill Bestwick will appear: Bestwick famously once opened the county’s bowling in partnership with his son, Robert, and all told took 1,457 First Class wickets despite taking a mid career break. He took an all-ten at the age of 46, was a Test umpire, and outside the game was charged and acquitted of homicide. Written by Mick Pope the book will appear in February. May’s addition to the series will be on the subject of Canon Frank Gillingham. Tony Bradbury will tell the story of one of the very few twentieth century cricketers who also had a full clerical career, and surely the only one who was born in Japan and died in Monaco. A  batsman good enough to average more than 30 and record 19 centuries over a career lasting a quarter of a century Gillingham might have captained Essex if he had been able to play full time.

From Malaysia I move on to Latin America and the publication, hopefully in May, of a substantial history of the game on that continent by James Coyne and Tim Abraham. There was a time, essentially between the wars, when the game had quite a stronghold there, particularly in Argentina, and Evita Burned Down Our Pavilion: A Cricket Odyssey through Latin America, promises to be the definitive account of cricket in the region.

A book I am particularly looking forward to is a self-published biography of David Larter by Richard Sayer. As a preliminary point self-publication can and usually does, for obvious reasons, often result in books being poorly presented. If nothing else I am sure, having had the pleasurable experience of reading an earlier book of Sayer’s, that he has on board a designer with real flair, and that accordingly this one will be an attractive finished product. Nonetheless it remains the case with such books that the quality of the narrative is the most important aspect of them. Larter was a 6’5” Scottish born fast bowler whose career was to all intents and purposes over at 25 because of persistent injury problems. Despite that a career record of 666 wickets at less than 20 runs each is hugely impressive and Larter’s ten Tests brought a decent reward as well. Personally I never saw Larter bowl, but as a child my father would speak of his mercurial talents in hushed and reverential tones whenever England were struggling for a breakthrough, hence my welcoming the opportunity to learn more about him.

Whilst on the subject of England cricketers born in Scotland I have recently learnt that in July a biography of Mike Denness appeared, self-published by Andrew Bee via Amazon. To date Mike Denness is the only England captain I have ever spoken to and that was when I was doing a bit of research into Dennis Amiss’ monumental unbeaten 262 in the Caribbean in 1974. That Denness chose to go to the trouble of returning my call and to talk to me for twenty minutes at a time when (unknown to me I hasten to add) he had only a fortnight before cancer claimed him always struck me as the behaviour of a true gentleman, whatever that word really means. I am still waiting for Amazon to deliver my copy of The Tale of the Scottish Dexter but as soon as they do it will go straight to the top of the ‘to read’ pile and a review will follow. This also seems to be a good point at which to mention that the previously announced Amiss autobiography, Not Out at the Close of Play, now due to appear on 1 March.

In September another book from David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd appeared, Simply the Best, which contains our national treasure’s take on the greatest of his time. Another book on a not dissimilar theme is due next May, Immortals of English Cricket by Bill Ricquier, a man who I believe, as well as being a cricket writer, is also an expert on Singapore land law. Ricquier’s book, which will doubtless be written in a very different style from Lloyd’s, contains essays on the eleven men he selects for an all-time England side and will see, amongst others, Jack Hobbs rubbing shoulders with Jimmy Anderson. Cricketing Lives: A Characterful History from Pitch to Page sounds as if it may be similar again, although the publisher’s blurb for Richard Thomas’ book, also due in May, suggests it is more of a history of the game than a collection of pen portraits.

And finally, May should see the appearance of a new book from Jon Hotten, The Elements of Cricket, which has the most impressive publisher’s blurb I have ever seen. It is described as a cricket book unlike any other published before, an extraordinary, eccentric guide and charming visual representation of the game, from the weather and wood that make it possible to the achievements of its greatest and most famous players.

The book is divided into the three parts that make up the fundamental elements of cricket: bat, ball and field. Their harmony produces cricket’s unique environment; their centuries’ long conflict provides its innovation, adaptability and vast psychological hinterland. These sections unite to map out in a completely original way the story of the sport that began as a country pursuit and is now followed by billions across the world.

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