Archived entries for Books

Independence Day

Scotland in Roy of the Rovers

The football comic strip released in the style of a beautiful A4 annual, ‘You Are The Ref 3‘ was released to coincide with the World Cup in the summer, giving an international flavour to the iconic drawings from illustrator Paul Trevillion (Roy of the Rovers) that accompany Keith Hackett’s refereeing dilemmas. Apart from being pre-spray it is contemporary in every other way, with great artistic impressions of modern players and a sidebar with answers to the queries about the laws of the game.

Amongst the cartoons of today’s superstars (and Mesut Ozil) there is also the face of the occasional legend from yesteryear: Beckbenbuer (West Germany), Eusabio (Portugal), Pele (Brazil), Cruyff (Netherlands), Bobby Moore (England) and Sylvester Stallone (Allied Forces). All players, apart from the novelty of Stallone, whose teams were in the World Cup. For anyone who remembers the cartoon strip from years gone by it is easy to remember back to older columns where, for example, Steve Archibald, Mark Hughes and Pat Jennings featured, as they did for club and county. While none of their nations qualified in 2014, for football fans, it has always been easy to understand that within the United Kingdom there were different countries.

So, as the Scottish Referendum has taken most of the news coverage in the fortnight (suddenly, despite being on the agenda for over a year), the fear being whipped up against the idea that a nation, a once famous footballing nation no less, shouldn’t be given its own independence, appears illogical. It is an arrogance that has come from left, right and down the centre and may be an example of one area where football is centuries ahead of the political class.
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Charlie Brooker: I Can Make You Hate

In The Simpsons episode “Homer vs. Lisa and the Eight Commandment” Homer laughs at some bland unfunny observational comedy on TV masquerading as a joke and says “It’s funny because it’s true.” The Homers of this world have kept average comedians on prime time television and their creative accountants in work for years. Most observational TV stand-up isn’t especially funny or clever unless it has a cutting edge; Charlie Brooker does have a cutting edge and uses the better medium of writing as a showcase for his talents, with observational material coupled with spurts of polemic that is consistently funny.
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Undercover

Undercover Guardian Books

The secret network of police that come across as more David Brent than Tim Roth in spirit, but who had few scruples in living a double-life.

Two weeks ago the latest report from the police investigation, Operation Herne, confirmed that the Metropolitan Police carried out secret surveillance on grieving families following 18 separate deaths, including those of innocent victims Stephen Lawrence, Ricky Reel and Jean Charles de Menezes. The unscrupulous lengths that undercover officers went to, often on seemingly harmless targets, including the revelation that the Lawrence family were spied on after he was murdered in a racist attack, were first brought to light by journalists Rob Evans and Paul Lewis.

Their book Undercover gets into the detail of a network of spies, not the Thirty-Nine Steps but a state funded bunch of detectives, mainly blokes, who took on their roles to manipulate, deceive and change the lives of citizens, with relish. It was a lifestyle that appealed to the wandering star copper with a hungry heart who could lead a double life armed with a stolen identity of a dead baby, the ready-made back story of a long-distance dying relative that would lead to a quick escape, a van to ferry the perceived poor do-gooders around, a tidy expense account and a James Bond style watch that would record conversations of their new friends and lovers. Continue reading…

Racing Hard

Racing Hard

Last weekend the Tour de France started in Yorkshire before coming to the Capital on Monday via Cambridgeshire, Essex and Enfield. Now, with the magic combination of mobile phones and social media, you didn’t have to be there to get a great insight, with photos and videos posted from numerous different vantage points on the routes on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. It wasn’t always so. When the Tour came to Tunbridge Wells in 1994 for anyone who wasn’t there newspaper reports gave a rarer glimpse of what it was like being there as bikes came round at pace on local streets. William Fotheringham’s piece at the times tells of the community spirit and excitement on the streets that looking back it now seemed to be a forerunner for the atmosphere that was to sweep the nation when the Olympic Torch came round before London 2012. Continue reading…

Tour de France Books

Cycle of lies - book on Lance Armstrong

Cycling Anthology - Volume 4

As road cycling takes over Yorkshire this weekend ahead of a day in the Capital tomorrow, some Tour de France books recommeded by Mark Perryman.

There seems to be something about cycling that helps inspire fine sportswriting. Perhaps it is the landscapes and countries traversed, the solitude on a bike, the risk factor of a fall or worse, the extraordinary feats of human endurance, and human-powered speed too. Add a healthy dose of British elite level cycling success plus a dash of greenery and its no surprise that publishers are backing bicycling authors to deliver sales, for the most part with very good books too. Continue reading…

Sports Books – Summer 2014

Pirates, Punks and Politics -FC St Pauli Book Review

Mark Perryman shares his tips for Sports Books in the Summer of 2014.

Summer 2013. The British and Irish Lions win their test series against the Aussies down under. Andy Murray wins Wimbledon. Chris Froome makes it a second Tour de France British Yellow Jersey in a row. Mo Farah does the double in the 5000m and 10,000m at the World Athletics Championships. For the second summer in a row, sporting Brits are forced for once to come to terms with what it feels like to be winners.

Of course the glorious appeal of sport is its unpredictability. A year ago Man Utd won the League by 11 points with Sir Alex in his retirement pomp. A year later Utd managed to hold on to 7th place. The best sportswriters engage with the cause and effect of unpredictability to capture not only the glories of victory but the far more common experience, the miseries of defeat. 2013’s summer of British victories only meant so much because most of us were better accustomed to the experience of British plucky losers. Amongst the finest sportswriters to cover this emotional scope was Frank Keating and The Highlights is a posthumous collection of his superb writing spanning more than fifty years of sport, reviewed in-depth on this website earlier this week here. Continue reading…

Frank Keating: The Highlights

Frank Keating Book Review Sports Writing

A review of a collection of over 50 years of great sports writing from Frank Keating, the Guardian Journalist who died in January 2013.

Compiled and edited by Frank Keating’s former Guardian colleague and sub-editor Matthew Engel, this wide-ranging collection of pieces from the late sports journalist who died in 2013 is a window into both the world of sport in the twentieth century and also Keating’s own art, his writing. There is very rarely a sentence not packed full of punch, sentences which are woven together to make articles that transcend match reports, interviews, profiles, obituaries, previews and reviews into a sum greater than their parts.

Keating’s skill is clear in this highlights package from work that spanned over five decades: he could take a one answer interview and turn it into a polemic, a history lesson or a reportage, while painting several pictures at the same time. Engles notes in his introduction that Keating sometimes took artistic license to the words of his interviewees to add a flourish in-keeping with the flair he himself consistently produced in his work, never misrepresenting them, Engles argues, rather delivering a more genuine portrayal of his subjects that the anodyne responses controlled by a PR spokesman who only allows clichés, platitudes and statements of the bleeding obvious.

The book contains Keating’s filed articles on genuine sporting heroes including Muhammad Ali, Ian Botham, Bill Nicolson, Basil D’Oliveria and Harold Larwood; there are the stories about unsung heroes from loyal servants at Fulham and Port Vale via golfing academies; and there are the brief encounters with the famous from other arenas such as Trevor Howard, Mother Theresa and John Betjeman. Continue reading…

Tales From The Secret Footballer

tales-from-the-secret-footballer

In his first book, The Secret Footballer expanded on his newspaper columns to give a rounded insight into the modern game, with a combination of wisdom and humour shaped around the central theme of a player writing as he was losing his own footholds as a professional. As he explains in his second book, Tales From The Secret Footballer, released just over a year after the first, he has since had a mini-resurgence in the game but is still undecided about his future and now takes the opportunity to reflect further, aided with stories he retells from contributors.

Again the book tries to give the view of an author with a dark passenger in his mind but The Secret Footballer is no Dexter Morgan, yet the narrative does explain a series of fallings out in his career to-date, the self-doubt that can affect performance and lead to concerns of suicide, as well as being a convenient opening to share a few hallucinatory experiences in this sequel. Continue reading…

Society & Politics Book Review, Spring 2014

Politics Book Review Pussy Riot

Mark Perryman of Philosophy Football’s latest Society & Politics Book Review covers a wealth of writing including Laura Bates, Darcus Howe & Bea Campbell with subjects that range from Pussy Riot to Scottish Independence.

UKiP riding high in the opinion polls, what could be a more dismal sign of the state of opposition outside the Westminster bubble. Whether or not Farage’s party of English poujadists manage to top the Euro Election poll in May and make a further dent in the 3-party domination of the local government elections on the same day too the dragging of political debate rightwards remains UKiP’s biggest achievement. There remains few signs of any similar success from the outside Left. Continue reading…

The Speech

Martin Luther King The Speech Book Gary Younge

In today’s Guardian, Owen Jones rightly points out that positive social change which the left fights for is about collective action rather than individuals. But the leaders and spokespeople in the battles for equality and freedom are significant in modern history as flag bearers of the day and an inspiration for the future.

Several have departed the stage recently. The death of Tony Benn yesterday served to remind of his key principles in challenging power without accountability while the more sudden loss of Bob Crow earlier in the week led to the realisation many workers in the UK could do with union representation of their own in a climate where zero-hours contracts, the exploitation of migrant workers and the gradual dismantling of employee rights by the right-wing Tory-Lib Dem coalition government, have largely slipped under the radar.

On an international scale the greatest leader and agent for change yet, Nelson Mandela, passed away this year with a legacy that will inspire generations to come across the World. In a different strand, but still significant, the US’ Pete Seegar also died recently. In his own way he was a torch shining a light in the struggle for good. Arguably the most important figure from the US movement in the sixties though was Martin Luther King, and he is best remembered for his ‘I Have Dream’ speech in Washington DC, 28 August 1963, which Gary Younge’s book, written 50 years on, tells the story of. Continue reading…



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