Tuesday, November 27, 2012

William Hill's book shortlist finally recognises valour over misery

Last year any sporting literature that conveyed entertainment seemed off limits but the judges seem in a happier place now

Tyler Hamilton
Tyler Hamilton's book, The Secret Race, is the most topical one on this year's William Hill shortlist. Photograph: Peter Dejong/AP

Sponsors William Hill claim that its "Bookie" prize for 2012's sports book of the year – the winner to be announced in London on Monday – will come from "the most varied shortlist in the award's 24-year history". Which might well be true – as well as being a merciful relief if it means the unchanging judging panel has resisted giving its handsome bundle of booty to the recent succession of winners for their string of grim tomes relating not so much to sport itself but of career-debilitating battles against physical, mental, abused or addictive adversity.

One lit-critic last year noted sadly how apt it was "that a prize sponsored by a bookie should typically portray sport as inventive misery".
Any sporting literature that conveyed valour, fun, enlightenment, endeavour or enjoyment seemed off limits. Of the last half-dozen "Bookie" winners just one had inspiriting qualities – 2009's heroic biography of cricketer Harold Larwood – with the remainder chronicling the glum mournfulness of, in turn, the racially oppressed boxer Jack Johnson (2006), alcoholic Brian Clough (2007), troubled cricketer Marcus Trescothick (2008), rugby's abused unhappy hooker Brian Moore (2010), and 2011's harrowing tale of a professional footballer's suicide.

Thankfully the judges seem in a happier place this year. Lazily, any Olympic books have been deemed too late for entry. The most topical shortlisted candidate is The Secret Race, where Tyler Hamilton claims to expose "the hidden world" of doping and cover-up in the Tour de France. The nearest resummoning of Olympics glories will be Running With The Kenyans, an appealingly evocative, self-explanatory first person tale, while Chrissie Wellington's A Life Without Limits, strains credulity about the skills and endurance demanded by ironman triathlon. A different eye‑opener is Simon Jordan's worthwhile, well‑written story of losing his self-made millions on Crystal Palace FC, while Miles Jupp provides some pleasant comedy with his engaging take on England's last cricket tour to India.

Full article at The Guardian

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