Martin Chandler |
Sorely tempted as I am to start numbering these features I will, for now, content myself with announcing that this is the 27th time I have written it, which is not something I ever expected to be saying. For anyone interested in the previous 26 do check out the links on A Bibliophile’s Blog home page, and for those prior to the start of that the links to the earlier features are all here.
I usually start by referencing those books that have been released in the last six months but which, for whatever reason, escaped my attention last time round. For once the list is not a long one. Five have been reviewed, Roger Heaven’s Index to Ayres’ Cricket Companion, and monographs from David Battersby on the subjects of Australian visits to South Wales during the ‘Golden Age’ and Martin Horton as well as an excellent autobiography from Gundappa Viswanath and a book about the final resting places of early Australian cricketers. One that I have not reviewed but will, in the not too distant future, mention in a blog post is volume 4 in an excellent series of books for those interested in the game in its earliest years, Ian Maun’s From Commons to Lords.
And then there is Crickonomics by Stefan Szymanski and Tim Wigmore. Well received, the description of the book is; Why does England rely on private schools for their batters – but not their bowlers? How did demographics shape India’s rise? Why have women often been the game’s great innovators? Why does South Africa struggle to produce Black Test batters? And how does the weather impact who wins? Crickonomics explores all of this and much more.
Moving forward cricket literature seems to be a bit like Test match cricket, in that on the one hand people keep sounding its death knell, but on the other to an outsider looking in it appears to be in rude health – ’tis a strange contradiction.
So what can we expect in the coming months from our smaller publishers? Starting in Lancashire Red Rose Books have just published an appreciation of Len Hopwood by Roy Cavanagh. Hopwood was a Lancashire all-rounder who was capped twice by England against Australia in 1934 and who, in 1980, became the first former professional to be invited to be President of the club.
The next publication from Red Rose will be another monograph from Stephen Musk, co-author of that splendid recent biography of Bart King. The book is entitled Overcoming Stigma in Victorian Cricket. The Remarkable Story of Francis Terry, Canada’s Mad Vicar. Terry is not, having played in just ten First Class matches in all for Somerset in the 1880s, a man to have left a significant mark in the record books, but he certainly sounds like an interesting character.
As for Martin Tebay himself he will hopefully find the time to put the finishing touches to his long awaited account of Lancashire’s victorious 1904 County Championship campaign, but in the meantime is also working on two more pamphlets. The first is in his Against The Odds series, and covers a match between XXII of the Isle of Man and a Lancashire County XI from 1888. Rather more mainstream is his Red Rose Records series which will close with From Makinson to MacLaren, a title which intrigues me. I remember David Makinson well, a decent left arm seamer who didn’t quite establish himself during his four years in the Lancashire side in the 1980s, but I cannot immediately recall any record breaking feats.
Staying in Lancashire there are four new books due from Max Books. The first, later this month, is the long awaited AN Hornby: The Life and Times of a Great Victorian Sporting Hero by WHT Hoole and T Wall. The book is extensively illustrated and covers much more than Hornby’s cricket career. It will be limited to just 50 copies. Later on we are promised an eclectic trio. Bob Bond’s Lancashire Hotch-Potch is a collection of cartoons and William Blake and Cricket is, as the title makes clear, a look at the famous poet’s links with the game. More conventional will be a biography of Peter Eckersley. An amateur batsman Eckersley led the Red Rose to the County Championship in 1930 and 1934. Described in the book’s subtitle as Lancashire’s Most Charismatic Cricketer, Eckersley was just 36 when he died in a plane crash in 1940.
David Battersby, whose regular monographs are always gratefully received, is expecting to publish two more in the coming months. His Pakistan Eaglets in the 1960s which I mentioned in January has not appeared, but will do so soon. The reason for the delay is the best possible one, that being new material being discovered. The second is a look at the life and times of Duncan Sharpe, a specialist batsman who played three Tests for Pakistan against Australia in 1959/60. Based on an interview with the now 84 year old Sharpe that one promises to be a particularly interesting read.
In Sussex the Museum’s plans are essentially as I indicated in January although I am pleased to be able to say that a book first mentioned several features ago, a biography of John Wisden, seems to be just about ready. I wonder too whether a tribute to the late Jim Parks might be in the offing? Also based in Sussex are Von Krumm and, by the time this is posted, the long awaited triple biography of George, Ron and Dean Headley will have been published.
CricketMASH have three new titles out in the coming weeks. One, Pradip Dhole’s biography of Harry Trott, has been mentioned before, but is now confirmed for release on 11 August. Before that Ray Markham’s From Scorebox to Pressbox will appear. Markham scored the 2019 World Cup Final, amongst other onerous tasks of a similar nature, and will no doubt have many memories and insights to share. The third release from this particular publisher is Megan Ponsford’s The Great Wisden Omission. The oversight in question is the private tour of India by an Australian team in 1935/36. Only last year Ms Ponsford published a book on that series but, through an academic imprint, the cost of that one was prohibitive, an accusation that I am confident it will not be possible to level at CricketMASH.
Fairfield Books have three titles due to appear in the coming weeks. Of Being Geoffrey Boycott, co-written with John Hotten, the publishers say; When the first lockdown came, finding himself without cricket for the first time in his life, Geoffrey Boycott sat down and began to write a retrospective warts-and-all diary of each of his Test match appearances. It is illuminating and unsparing, characterised by Boycott’s astonishing memory, famous forthrightness and unvarnished, sometimes lacerating, honesty.
Next up is The Legend of Sparkhill by Moeen Ali. As Moeen’s autobiography appeared as recently as 2018 this clearly isn’t a rerun of that and indeed is a book aimed at younger readers. Fairfield describe the book, written with assistance from Tanya Aldred, as confronting many of the themes prevalent in today’s society – religion, racism, bullying, equality and diversity – and told with real passion and skill, it will be an inspiration for a generation of young schoolchildren as they make their way in the world.
Finally Fairfield are publishing an anthology of the work of Paul Edwards, a fine writer whose byline is a well known one amongst those who read newspapers and other more ephemeral media. The collection is titled Summer Days Promise and Fairfield say of their man; He can express the moods and emotions of a day as well as anyone. And his love for the game – and those involved in it – pours off every page of this book. But because he has interests far beyond the boundary – in politics and people, in music and history – he is as likely to quote Mott the Hoople as Herman Melville; as likely to cite the repeal of the corn laws as regulations regarding Kolpak registrations.
The ACS have plans to publish five titles over the remaining months of the year. The first, due in August, is by Keith Walmsley. Ninety years on, The ABC Tour will be the first detailed look at a tour to Great Britain by a team of players from Argentina, Brazil and Chile. In 1932 the South American side played six first-class matches, winning two of them, but economic and political conditions both in Britain and in South America made this a never-to-be-repeated and easily-forgotten tour. Needless to say the tour has not been written about before.
Rather different from anything the ACS has published before is Cricket in Barham: two hundred years of play in a Kentish village by Mark Chaloner. While the focus of the book is on Barham Cricket Club, it also looks at cricket in the wider contexts of both life in Barham and the development of the game in East Kent, and explores the changing relationship between the cricket club and the village.
November will see two new titles in the excellent Lives in Cricket series. The first concerns Ray Smith, who gave great service to Essex between 1934 and 1956 – was Smith more than a journeyman county cricketer? On the basis that he must have been otherwise as skilled a writer as John Broom wouldn’t be bothering to write up his life, this is one I am particularly looking forward to.
The second Lives in Cricket title takes the series on a welcome trip to Australia, the subject being Norman O’Neill and the writer Brian O’Sullivan. O’Neill played for his country on as many as 42 occasions although, unsurprisingly and like all who were similarly burdened, he did not come close to living up to the label of ‘the new Bradman’ that was given to him when he began his career.
Finally with Sussex Grounds by David Jeater and Roger Packham the ACS return to familiar territory and a book that just leaves Northamptonshire without a title in this long running series (and to complete the set that should appear next year). Sussex are a side who have visited many parts of their county, even though their headquarters, Hove, has itself hosted more First Class matches than anywhere else that has yet to host a Test match.
In January I was able to announce as many as seven forthcoming titles from Pitch, and this time round I am able to list another six. The first, recently released, is Cricket, My Brother and Me: Fifty Years Watching English Cricket by Geoffrey Hart, the description of that one being; As a toddler, Geoff knocks his brother out using a frying pan as a bat. They survive and go on to share an obsession with cricket. From playing as kids in men’s pads they become devoted England fans. Cricket, My Brother and Me is an hilarious take on the torture and glory of the Ashes, touring abroad and the more sedate joys of county cricket.
Just out is Playing With Teeth: How Scotland’s Cricketers Broke the Cycle of Glorious Failure by Jake Perry and Gary Heatly. For this one the blurb is; Scottish sport has seen more than its share of glorious failure. Playing with Teeth tells the story of a Scotland side that bucked that trend. With a behind-the-scenes look at the cultural changes that dramatically improved the fortunes of the nation’s cricket team, the book charts its journey from underachievement to unprecedented success.
Better Than He Knew: The Graham Barlow Story by Graham Barlow and James Hawkins is another title that has also been released in recent days. This time I will not repeat Pitch’s description and will simply say that Barlow is an excellent raconteur with a hugely entertaining story to tell. Exhibit A in support of that contention is his appearance on Graham Barratt’s splendid Once Upon a Time in the Ashes podcast.
Of Battenberg, Bombay And Blag: Tales of a Club Cricketer Gone Rogue by Victor Mills is due out this week and is described as a blood, sweat and beers switch hit across the decades with first-hand and opinion pieces on club cricket, Test matches, the Hundred and IPL. The decline of cricket’s fat few, beach cricket protocols and NHS-prescribed county cricket for sleep deprivation is merely the book taking guard. Be prepared to bat long. First time author Mills sounds like an interesting character as well, so this one should be worth a read.
And then we will have something very different, Swallows and Hawke: England’s Cricket Tourists, the MCC and the Making of South Africa 1888-1968 by Richard Parry and André Odendaal. The book is a history of the fifteen MCC tours to South Africa over the period, and there are no better qualified men to write that than Parry and Odendaal.
Finally from Pitch September will see the release of Black Swan Summer: The Improbable Story of Western Australia’s First Sheffield Shield by Max Bonnell and Andrew Sproul. That success came in 1947/48, the first occasion that the state competed for the Shield, and was won with a team that did not have a single Test cap between them, and indeed none of them ever were capped by Australia.
There are also three autobiographies due from England cricketers in the coming months. The first is Beyond The Pavilion: Reflections on a Life in Cricket, and is the story of Barry Knight, a more than capable all-rounder for Essex and Leicestershire through the late 1950s and 1960s who was capped 29 times by England. A successful cricketer and later coach (after emigrating to Australia) Knight was less successful in a somewhat chequered business career. Stories of Knight abound amongst his contemporaries and it will be interesting to see whether he chooses to address all of these, or skirt round some of them.
Also of much interest will be a long awaited autobiography from Mike Brearley. Turning Over the Pebbles: A Life in Cricket and in the Mind that is due to be published by Constable at the end of September*. Not so appealing, at least on its face, is The Wood Life: A Not so Helpful How-To Guide on Surviving Cricket, Life and Everything in Between which is written by Mark Wood. A book about Wood strikes me as a decent idea, but that this one seems to run to 400 pages, has the author on the cover pulling a strange face, and has a blurb referencing its being full of laugh out loud anecdotes does not fill me with great confidence.
Which seems like an appropriate place to move to the southern hemisphere where a book about another current fast bowler is due. I have to say that Captain Pat, Cometh the Hour Cummins the Man by Ron Reed (who has sadly passed away since the book was completed) is, despite its concerning a man whose career has, hopefully, some time yet to run, one I am looking forward to and it may well be the closest we get to a book about the hugely disappointing Ashes series that we saw last winter.
The game lost one of its real legends in March when Shane Warne departed this mortal coil. I expect a number of tributes to appear, but thus far I am only aware of one, On Ya Warnie by Ken Piesse and Paul Harvey, a book that has already been published and is available from Mr Piesse.
And then we have the Cricket Publishing Company, who have not actually published a great deal of late, but I am hopeful that a number of projects will shortly reaching the printing presses. One that just has is a book on the subject of George Garnsey, a leg spinner who performed pretty well for New South Wales between 1904 and 1907, but is noted more for being a collector of cricket books and memorabilia.
Also just about to be released is the long awaited biography of Bert Kortlang by Rob Franks, and also finished is a monograph on the subject of another New Zealander. Beyond that I am sworn to secrecy, but a review will appear as soon as the booklet is available.
Other projects that are well advanced are one on Charles Dickens and cricket, and one entitled Cricket and the Church. Also on the way are a biography of Harry Donnan, a monograph on Dick Motz and one I mentioned a long time ago now, a collection of essays on noted Australian collectors, is back on track. In the slightly longer term a biography of Paul Sheahan is pencilled in for later in the year.
One thing I have been contemplating writing in the coming weeks is a blog post on the subject of books that have been planned but never appeared. Having already pulled from that his book on Australian collectors Mr Cardwell has, only in the past three weeks, further scuppered my plans by confirming that the barriers to his Jimmy Burke biography appearing have been overcome. Similarly I am also given to understand that Rick Smith’s plans to publish his and the late Brian Bassano’s work on South African Test cricketers should, after a period of uncertainty, now appear in the coming months. And if that were not enough I learnt only this week that one book I had given up any hope of ever seeing, Philip Paine’s (he of 24 volumes of Innings Complete) ‘sortabiography’ of Sandford Schultz, who made a single appearance for England in 1878/79, is almost finished and should be self-published in the not too distant future.
Three more Australian titles are also due in the coming weeks. One, which I have heard from a man who checked the proofs is excellent, is from Ric Sissons, The Glory and The Dream, an account of the visit of the MCC visit to Australia in 1903/04 which resulted in Pelham Warner’s side recovering the Ashes. Despite ending up on the losing side this was a fine series for Victor Trumper, and reminds me that it is a while since we had anything new on the legendary batsman. I was not alone in thinking for some months that a ‘mystery’ book from Craig Reece entitled V.T would be just that. But Craig was just toying with us as it turns out that his V.T is Val Thompson, a highly promising Hawthorn batsman who died suddenly just before The Great War and never played First Class cricket. If the subject nonetheless appeals it will probably be wise to place an order with Roger Page sooner rather than later, as I believe the limited edition is going to comprise a mere 14 copies.
Also due from Australia is a new book from Peter Kettle, Why Bradman Not Imitated, which I presume tackles the obvious truism that whilst in the 70+ years since he retired no batsman has approached the Don’s records, at the same time no one seems to have been able/prepared to copy his technique.
A further recent addition to Australian cricket literature is Cackyhander, the autobiography of writer Richard Cashman, a man who has authored a number of books, most notably biographies of ‘The Demon’ Spofforth and the barracker supreme of the inter war years Stephen Gascoigne, better known simply as Yabba.
And finally from Australia is something that is always worth waiting for, a new book from Gideon Haigh. In November Sultan will appear, a biography of the great Pakistan and Lancashire all-rounder Wasim Akram. A contender for the title of the greatest left arm pace bowler of them all Waz was an exciting cricketer, and his life post playing has had more than its fair share of tragedy and torment. One thing that is for sure is that Haigh will not have been short of material.
One cricket playing nation that has rarely featured in these articles is Sri Lanka. A handful of Lankan lives have been written up, but many fine players have not been so honoured (I’m thinking the likes of Jayasuriya, Vaas, Murali, Jayawardene, Sangakkara and Herath). Untold in detail, despite the country having had Test status for more than forty years, is the history of country’s cricket. That is a shortcoming that will be put right in a few days with the release of An Island’s Eleven, a 512 page history written by Nicholas Brookes and published by The History Press.
It is many years since the US has had a presence of any significance in cricket but, for a few years in the ‘Golden Age’ between 1890 and 1914 Philadelphia could put out a side that was capable of testing all but the very strongest English and Australian sides. The Philadelphians star all-rounder, Bart King, has recently been the subject of an excellent biography and December will see the release of a book by Tom Melville, This Too America, which looks more generally at the game in Philadelphia.
In India I am aware of six forthcoming titles, one of which is in a category of its own. Of the other five ‘normal’ books one is by Boria Majumdar, on the subject of the IPL, a second is yet another biography of MS Dhoni and the third a book by Vinod Rai, who spent the best part of three years as the court appointed overseer of the administration of the BCCI.
I am not aware of any previous cricketing novels from India, but Gods of Willow from Amrish Kumar is one such. Then later in the year we will have Gulu Ezekiel’s much anticipated sequel to Myth Busting from Rupa. Gulu tells me it is on a not dissimilar theme but will come with a twist. The book covers not just Indian cricket but other sports as well. There will be seven chapters, four on cricket and one each on hockey, Davis Cup tennis and Olympic athletics.
The sixth Indian title will certainly break one record as the most expensive of eight levels of limited edition comes in at a whopping £25,000 a pop. The book is a celebration of India’s World Cup win in 1983, and the publishers’ website is here.
*At least it was when I start writing this. It seems to have been put back now to April 2023