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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…

True Detective

True Detective Season 1 Review

The first glimpse of the golden age of television we are now well and truly in came from the US, with the continuing chase of a serial killer in Twin Peaks. Scandinavia have since mastered the art of that traditional tale with The Killing and The Bridge, but True Detective, inspired by pulp fiction novels, has found new life in an old shaggy dog’s story.

Before Twin Peaks, much of US prime time cop-led drama used to belong to duos, with Starsky and Hutch, Cagney and Lacey and CHiPs successful exports in the early eighties. The first season of True Detective used the duo of Matthew McConaughey’s alcoholic Rust Cohle and Woody Harrleson’s compulsive philandering Marty Hart to hunt down a serial killer that had evaded them for over a decade with echoes of Twin Peaks’ dark second season and arguably the best cinematography and set detail in any US long-running drama. 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…

House of Cards (US) S1 & 2

House of Cards Season 2 FU Cufflinks picture

It took a while the US remake of Andrew Davies’ original adaptation to get going. It wasn’t until the tenth episode the pace quickened, like an acceleration of a leading pack in a long distance race, but even then the story that was delivered in the British original in four one-hour episodes still didn’t reach the finish line in the first thirteen episodes of Season 1.

The Season 2 opener, Chapter 14, was the finale Season 1 should have been, delivering a punch full of impact that was true to the original drama broadcast on Sunday nights on BBC1 in 1990 (then also topical with the Thatcher blood bath in the Tory party fresh in the nation’s mind), while setting up an excellent second season released in one batch on Netflix, ideal for binge viewing. Continue reading…

Born to End – Stop StubHub

Yesterday, Sky Sports, when previewing Tottenham Hotspur’s trip to Swansea City, spoke about the club making history if they repeated something they had done before, albeit half a centuary ago. As if 50 years ago doesn’t count. But perhaps not surprising from the outlet that perpetuates the notion that football was only formed 20 years ago.

Younger fans must think yesterday’s pundit Greame Souness played in a parrallel universe, like a modern day version of Melchester Rovers when Bob Wilson, Emlyn Hughes and members of Spandua Ballet teamed up with Roy Race. Footage exists of goals Souness scored, but as they weren’t in the top flight Mark II, aka the Premier League, they must seem like a piece of fiction, dramatised in grainy cinematography with a thousands of extras and a voice over from an actor called Brian Moore.

Football history, with packed terraces, such as when Spurs last won five away games, is now only partially recognised. In the mind of Sky Sports, Souness’ League Cup winner in 1984, was really in the Year 8BEPL. Continue reading…

The Broken Circle Breakdown

The Broken Circle Breakdown picture

Made in 2012 but released at film festivals in 2013, the Belgium Oscar Academy nominee for an international language film, The Broken Circle Breakdown, should be up for the main award in its own right; it’s an art-house masterpiece, maximizing the medium of cinema through sight, sounds, brilliant dialogue, symbolism, superb lead performances and great intelligence, bringing to life a story full of impact and big themes.

Continue reading…

Sports Books to Read – 10 Resolutions

Sports Books Review

Mark Perryman suggests Sports Books to read as 10 alternate resolutions list for 2014.

Too much Christmas pud, cake and ale over the seasonal break? Feet up in front of the TV for an indecent chunk of the duration? Sport defined as watching it rather than doing it? The first few weeks of January are often the period to make a personal pledge to get active, lose those bulges and finally dust off those long-forgotten running shoes, a bike, pair of swimming trunks or whatever and put them to the use they were intended for. A month later ending up back at square one, well that’s certainly the case for most of modern, inactive, Britain. Why has sport evolved into a multibillion global industry yet activity plummets, obesity rockets? This New Year resolution reading list might help us to understand why, and vitally do something about it too. Continue reading…



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