book_reviews_banner_image-81x81 A BIBLIOPHILE'S BLOG

New Books – An overview for July 2024

Not for the first time I started work on this feature wondering if I would be able to find enough material to justify the exercise but, like each of the previous occasions when that thought entered my mind I soon discovered that there is still a good deal in the pipeline. I will of course have missed a few as well, and will start this time with a nod to those I missed in January.

Perhaps the most important of those was a surprise release from Red Rose Books, one of my favourite publishers, from Max Bonnell, one of my favourite authors. The subject was an Australian bowler of the Golden Age, Tom McKibbin. Only a generation after McKibbin Australia’s wicketkeeper was William ‘Barlow’ Carkeek, another man whose biography appeared earlier this year from another personal favourite, Gideon Haigh.

Next in this category is a book I have not yet seen, but Tea and Biscuits in India: Through the night with the England team 2023-2024 has been self-published by Stephen Blackford – an old fashioned tour account perhaps?

Moving on to the rest of the year I will start with Pitch, who have already published several excellent books this year. They are not finished yet and in addition to the titles I mentioned six months ago there are four more to come. The first is a biography of the Yorkshire fast bowler of the inter-war period, Bill Bowes. An Unusual Celebrity: The Many Cricketing Lives of Bill Bowes is written by a man who knows all about cricket in Yorkshire, Jeremy Lonsdale, and I am confident he will do full justice to a man who was neither an archetypal Yorkshireman or a typical fast bowler.

Then there is Faces On A Wall by Andrew Radd. Steeped in the history of Northamptonshire cricket Radd’s book profiles all of the counties captains since 1878, whose portraits appear in the pavilion at the county ground. They are a diverse bunch, ranging from top class players to men whose cricketing abilities did not warrant them getting anywhere near the First Class game and it is a book I am much looking forward to.

Overthrowing The Empire at Cricket is Jarrod Kimber’s first book for Pitch, and one of those where the sub-title tells you all you need to know; The Stories of How Every Team Beat England for the First Time. The matches concerned are all, by definition, historic, and the one I will be particularly interested to read about is the Pakistanis’ victory at The Oval in 1954, on their very first visit to England.

Finally for 2024 from Pitch, due at the end of September, is a new book from Christopher Sandford.  The Cricketers of 1945 looks at how the game picked itself up after five lost summers, and relies not just on contemporary reports and books but also draws extensively on the surviving correspondence and diaries of those involved.

One piece of news that disappointed cricketing bibliophiles a couple of years back was the announcement of Stephen Chalke’s retirement. In fact that seems to have proved to be news that was good rather than bad as we now have the best of all worlds. Fairfield Books are under a dynamic new management that respects and seeks to enhance their reputation, Stephen is still involved and, best of all, he seems not to have lost his appetite for writing.

I am therefore delighted to announce that a new Chalke will be appearing in the autumn, and it is something of a departure. He has written a number of biographies in the past, all of them amongst the very best of that genre, but hitherto he has always worked with living subjects. This project is Brian Close, who has been the subject of several previous books but Stephen’s will undoubtedly be the definitive biography of a man who may not have been the greatest cricketer of his era, but although there is one fellow Yorkshireman who might not have agreed, would almost certainly be regarded as the greatest character.

Out this coming week from Fairfield is a new autobiography from Brian Lara, Lara – The England Chronicles, which I will be reading as soon as I have finished the long awaited (and not just by me) David Tossell retrospective on the 1974/75 Ashes series, Blood on the Tracks. Fairfield’s other book for 2024, expected in the autumn, is from Stephen Brenkley and looks at another historic Ashes series, that of 1926. Played against the background of the General Strike and a set of grim economic conditions across the world I am expecting a book that deals with much more than cricket.

A recent book from Bloomsbury has mixed cricket with social history. Richie Benaud’s Blue Suede Shoes: The Story of an Ashes Classic is, on the face of matters, concerned solely with the Old Trafford Test of 1961. It is a great deal more than that however, co-authored by renowned historians/writers David Kynaston and Harry Ricketts, the start of the swinging sixties looms large.

As always the ACS have a few books in the pipeline, including two in the popular Lives in Cricket series of biographies. The first of those, due in August, is authored by Max Bonnell and for that reason alone is one I am particularly looking forward to. The subject is Ernest Parker who, like his biographer, was a lawyer. A Western Australian, Parker was the first from the state to record a First Class century and was likened to Trumper by some. He was also an outstanding tennis player, winning the men’s singles in the 1913 Australian Championship. Sadly Parker was one of the many   who lost their lives on the Western Front.

Another August publication is ‘You Can’t Hurry Us’: A History of Cricket in Suffolk’ by Simon Sweetman. It tells the story of how the game started in Suffolk, as well as the various attempts to form a county club, and the development of the men’s and women’s game at all levels through to the modern day. 

November will see another three books from the ACS. John Shawcroft, a man who has written several previous books with Derbyshire subjects turns his attention, for the Lives in Cricket series, to the phenomenally successful new ball pairing of the post war years Les Jackson and Cliff Gladwin, neither of whom found favour very often with the England selectors. 

Also out in August is A History of Cricket in Cambridge by Professor Tony Watts, a book that will look at the game in the city at all levels, and it is worth bearing in mind that, albeit briefly, Cambridgeshire were a First Class county between 1857 and 1871.

Peter Mason, who has previously written a biography of Learie Constantine, has written one of Clyde Walcott that is to be published in the autumn by the Manchester University Press. It is surprising given Walcott’s pre-eminence that he has not previously been the subject of a biography, albeit he did produce two autobiographies, in 1958 and 1999.

Back in 2023 Derek Barnard self-published a biography of the Kent stalwart of the late 1950s and 1960s, Alan Dixon. It was a decent read if noticeably light on Dixon’s views on the many great players he played with and against. It would appear now that that apparent oversight was in fact intentional, as a second book from the Barnard/Dixon collaboration is in the course of preparation.

There are some interesting projects being worked on by the Sussex Museum. The long awaited biography of John Wisden by Stephen Baldwin is, it seems, back on track, and a booklet by Nicholas Sharp to mark the 60th anniversary of the county’s 1964 Gillette Cup win is also due. There is also a title due that I am told, by my source at the museum, is our best book ever! It is a limited edition coffee table book showcasing the camera work of Arthur Smallwood, who took many photographs at Hove in the 1960s and 1970s.

Two other titles due from the museum are a book from David Boorman looking at cricket in Warnham, a village a couple of miles north of Horsham and one that, at this stage, all I know is that it is a pamphlet about a record breaking day in Leicester, a description that certainly has me intrigued.

The Gloucestershire Museum has plans for three publications. None have fixed publication dates as yet, but it is hoped all will see the light of day before the year’s end. One is a tribute to Mike Procter, with recollections and reminiscences from former players, friends and colleagues. The other two are also biographical in nature. The men featured are Gilbert Jessop (celebrating the 150th anniversary of his birth) and Billy Midwinter. The museum currently have the bat that Jessop used in the famous 1902 Test, and hope to secure on loan from Australia the bat that it is believed Midwinter used in the inaugural Test back in 1877.

A new book just published in Derbyshire is a first title from the county’s photographer, historian and statistician David Griffin. The Jewel in Derbyshire’s Crown is a history of the game at the renowned Queen’s Park ground in Chesterfield.

Two of the Max Books titles I mentioned in January have yet to appear, but should do soon. They are the collection of cartoons drawn by Neville Cardus and Keith Gregson’s book on the Olympic cricket tournament of 1900. Two other titles are also expected, one a 180,000 word history of Hockley Heath Cricket Club which, if nothing else, complete with more than 300 illustrations, will surely be the bulkiest club history ever published.

And then there is Charles Dickens and Cricket by Eric Midwinter. This is the fourth occasion in my lifetime that the renowned English novelist, who died as long ago as 1870, has been the subject of a book on his cricketing connections. Before Midwinter the authors concerned have been Irving Rosenwater, John Goulstone and James Merchant, so altogether an exceptional quartet.

Red Rose Books have three titles confirmed. A biography of Geoff ‘Noddy’ Pullar will be out very soon, and later on Steve Smith will continue his look at Philadelphian cricket with a booklet about a tour there by the Gentlemen of Ireland in 1909. The Irish played two First Class matches, dominated by the remarkable Bart King.

Also appearing from Red Rose is a biography of Charlie Shore from Stephen Musk. Shore was primarily an orthodox left arm spinner who player club cricket professionally in the Liverpool area, appeared occasionally in county cricket for Lancashire and Nottinghamshire before, and this is of course how he attracted Musk’s interest, later relocating to Norfolk. Although not definite we may also see something from Musk on a tour of England by a Canadian side in 1922.

David Battersby has been adding items regularly to the canon of cricket literature for some time now, and he has one more monograph for this year,and another that may sneak in before 2025, but if not will certainly appear then. The one we will see continues David’s fascination with the Pakistan Eaglets and amounts to a further supplement to his earlier work on that subject. There is something new on all of the tours that have been covered before, and a good deal on the 1969 tour about which, until now, virtually nothing has been known.

The next Battersby will be something different, and the biography of the New Zealand all-rounder of the 1930s Ian ‘Cranky’ Cromb. The biography was inspired by the acquisition of an extensive scrapbook relating to the tour of England by the New Zealanders in 1931 so will doubtless contain much material that has not been published before and, let’s face it, anyone given that nickname by their teammates has to be an interesting character.

For those interested in Scottish cricket Richard Miller has some more books in his Scottish Cricket Memories series in the pipeline. Number 21 is going to be The First Scottish Cricket Union 1879 – 1883 by Neil Leitch, Number 22 is The Cricket Grounds of Dundee (Part 1) 1830 – 1890 by Richard himself and Number 23 is likely to be The Story of a Cricket Picture – Craigmount 1870, again by Richard himself. Others including Arbroath United CC – A History, Early Cricket in Dunfermline and some player profile series are also in the course of preparation. Still in Scotland Richard is also helping Charlie Clark’s History of Lasswade CC into print.

Age is no barrier to writing, and Henry Blofeld continues to illustrate that as, in September, he has a new book released. Sharing My Love of Cricket: Playing the Game and Spreading the Word is Blowers comparing the cricketing landscape of today with the cherished memories of yesteryear. 

And what of Australia. There are still several of the books that I mentioned in January that have not yet been published, although on the other side of that coin Nathan Anderson’s splendid The Bird O’Freedom Portrait Gallery of Golden Age Cricketers did come through from nowhere. Two others that are well placed to appear in the coming weeks are biographies of George Bonnor and Sid Emery, from the the pens of Mr Cardwell himself and Pat Rodgers respectively.

Elsewhere in Australia Ken Piesse is publishing an autobiography, Living the Dream and, unsurprisingly, there is a new book due with the name of the greatest batsman who ever lived in the title, Harry Hodgetts – The Flawed Broker Behind Don Bradman’s Move To Adelaide  by John Davis. I’m not sure there will be much in the way of cricketing content, but it will doubtless be an intriguing story nonetheless.

Those few apart there is not a great deal of news. Rick Smith’s book about the South African visit to Australia in 1910/11 is almost ready, and I believe that books about the AIF side of 1919 and the tours of Australia in 1887/88 by different English teams led by Aubrey Smith on the one hand, and George Vernon on the other are well advanced. Ric Sissons and Peter Schofield have embarked on another project, covering the Australian non-Test tour to New Zealand of 1913/14 and I believe a book is being written about the 1928/29 Ashes series, but that is all the news that has reached me.

As far as India is concerned I am not aware of anything being released in the immediate future, although I harbour hopes that the success of Gulu Ezekiel’s splendid biography of Salim Durani is going to result in a veritable flood of similar projects by Indian writers, bringing names like Umrigar, Solkar, Baig, Surti, Contractor and Nadkarni to life for the IPL generation. In the meantime one title that has very recently appeared is what looks to be an interesting autobiography by Ravichandran Ashwin, I Have the Streets: A Kutti Cricket Story.

And finally one not for 2024, but certainly worthy of a mention. I am delighted to learn that Annie Chave, the driving force behind the thoroughly worthwhile County Cricket Matters magazine, is working on her first book, which it is hoped will be with us next year. All I know about it at the moment is that it is about (probably 11) people where cricket has made a difference to their lives, an observation that opens up a number of possibilities, all interesting.

Leave a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until they have been approved

More articles by Martin Chandler