Magic opportunity for small publisher

It is a sad consequence of the effect of the recession on the book business that even great stories told by famous names might struggle to make it into print as publishers become increasingly anxious to avoid taking risks.

The life of Garry Birtles, the carpet fitter who became a double European Cup winner with Nottingham Forest and then Manchester United’s most expensive player, is a terrific tale that has begged to be told -- but almost 20 years after his last professional game it might be hard to convince a commissioning editor worried about his margins to agree.

Happily, publishing does not begin and end with the big London houses and the Garry Birtles story is now sitting on bookshop shelves thanks to a three-way collaboration that will, with luck, provide more evidence that, in the sports book business, small can be beautiful -- and, more to the point, profitable.

My Magic Carpet Ride, just released by Reid Publishing, has seen the light of day after Birtles teamed up with Nottingham-based football writer Ian Edwards and local publisher David McVay.

They have targeted a relatively small audience but believe there will be enough interest, particularly in the Nottingham area, to sell in sufficient numbers for all parties to see a worthwhile reward.

The risk is shouldered by McVay, a former professional footballer turned successful journalist and author, but apart from the upfront costs involved in printing, much of the outlay is in man hours and motorway miles.

“In broad terms, a printer will charge about £2.50 per copy for a hardback, and perhaps £1.50 for a softback,” he said. “So for an initial run of 1,000 copies in hardback you are looking at up to £2,500 to get the book produced.

“We have been working with MPG Biddles in King’s Lynn, who are competitive in terms of price but produce a good quality, well designed product.”

Getting their books into the shops can often be a barrier to success for small publishers, with large distribution firms demanding a substantial slice of the cover price in return for nationwide coverage.  Add that to the retailer’s cut and the profit for publisher and author takes a big hit. Better, in McVay’s eyes, to identify your likely sales hotspots and target them direct.

“Dealing with small, independent shops is straightforward enough,” he said. “They ask for a specific number of books and I’ll deliver them.

“Of course, independents these days are few and far between and it is the big, national chains that you want to have your books.

“You can deal with head offices but in my experience it is worthwhile going to the branches in the areas you expect to do well in and speaking directly with the local manager.

“We have very good relationships with the branch managers at Waterstones and WH Smith in Nottingham, for example, and that certainly helps.”

McVay also undertakes the work involved in publicising his books, organising signings and in-store promotions, or contacting newspapers, local and national, in the hope of generating publicity and reviews.

"There is a lot of work involved but the great thing is that you have full control of the project, whereas writing for another publisher you can feel a bit marginalised," he said.

In his case, contacts have helped.  He currently writes for the Daily and Sunday Telegraph titles and has a good relationship with the Nottingham Post, where he cut his journalistic teeth in the 1980s after playing for Notts County, and exposure in their pages, where Birtles writes a regular column, has been invaluable in publicising My Magic Carpet Ride.

“Henry Winter, the Telegraph football correspondent, also did a little piece,” he said. “It is great to get some national exposure.”

McVay hopes to sell copies in Manchester and in Grimsby, where Birtles -- now a regular contributor to Sky's football coverage -- ended his career, but it is mainly the Nottingham area that offers the best hope of a substantial take-up.

“Anyone who thinks that to sell 1,000 copies of a book is a piece of cake is wrong but with hard work and if you target the right market it is achievable.

“It is a three-way equal partnership between Garry, Ian and myself and if we can sell 1,000 there will be a return for us all.  If we can sell 2,000 or more it will have been a worthwhile experience.”

For ghostwriter Edwards, who got to know Birtles as a football writer on the Nottingham Post during the striker’s second spell at Forest, just seeing the book in the shops is a reward.

“From a personal view, to have written a book -- something I’d always wanted to do -- is a source of personal satisfaction.  But I’ve always thought that Garry had a great story to tell.

“He was getting paid £60 a week fitting carpets before Forest signed him and he goes on to win two European Cups.  Then he goes from the fantastic highs he experienced at the City Ground to the desperate lows at Manchester United.

“After he had finished his career at Grimsby, he ended up driving round in a white van selling fish for a while and even had a period on the dole.  Can you imagine someone winning the European Cup nowadays having to sign on the dole?”

Although concentrating largely on Birtles as a player and what he did on the field, the book also offers a glimpse into the life of a footballer during his era, and in particular into life in Nottingham.

“He has always been a Nottingham lad, wherever he has gone, a real homeboy with a real affection for the city,” Edwards said.

“Talking about the European Cup seasons, he would describe coming back from away games, landing at East Midlands airport and ending up in a club in town, talking to the fans.

“He has a lot of memories about being a footballer in Nottingham in the ‘80s and it was fascinating to listen to him talking about places that don’t exist now, clubs and shops and the like.  It painted a picture that was really evocative of what Nottingham was like as a city at that time.”

Follow the link to buy My Magic Carpet Ride through Amazon.

My Magic Carpet Ride is also available from Reid Publishing, at a discount price of £15.00.

For more on football, visit The Sports Bookshelf Shop.



Wagh of words turns to the law

When batsman Mark Wagh recorded his thoughts in a diary of the 2008 English cricket season (Pavilion to Crease... and Back; Fairfield Books), it looked like the army of ex-players occupying Press Boxes around the country would be swelled by another recruit before much longer.

Wagh’s honest and well-written account of a season with his county, Nottinghamshire, was spoken of in the same breath as previously acclaimed work by Jonathan Agnew, Ed Smith and Simon Hughes, all of whom have gone on to establish careers in the media or, in the case of Smith, write a number of books.

But when, after scoring nearly 12,000 first-class runs, Wagh puts his bat away for good next summer it will be for a career in the law rather than journalism.

“I did think about journalism because I do enjoy writing,” Wagh said.

“But while I enjoy playing cricket I’m not a great watcher and I wondered if it might be a bit of a lonely existence, with just a laptop for company a lot of the time.

“I also looked at the diminishing number of column inches being given to cricket in the newspapers these days and wondered whether it was really a career with a future.

“If I buy a paper it is usually The Times but there have been occasions this summer when there has been a really interesting day in the domestic programme and I’ve bought the paper the next day to find not a word about it.”

Instead, the 33-year-old former Warwickshire player, the elegance of whose batting has drawn comparisons with the best when at the top of his game, has been studying hard to obtain the necessary qualifications before starting a training contract with the London commercial law firm Freshfields in February 2012.

“I’ve been thinking for a while about what I would do when I stopped playing and while I may miss cricket -- I will not know until I’ve finished -- I’m excited about taking on a new challenge,” he said.

From Pavilion to Crease was praised for being a frank and candid description of life as a professional cricketer that did not attempt to sugar-coat the lifestyle and challenged conventional stereotypes.

“I feel that there is a lot of rubbish written,” he said. “There is a degree to which certain things are trotted out as if they were true, when to my mind they aren‘t.

“For instance, this idea that you have to have a positive mindset to score runs.  I’ve never felt that to be true.  There are times I have turned up feeling as though there is absolutely no chance of scoring runs and I’ve scored runs.  Other times I have felt absolutely perfect and not scored one.

“That’s just one example and there are lots of others.  So I just wanted to record what I felt each day and give a realistic representation of what happens during a cricket season.”

An Oxford graduate in psychology, Wagh is by nature a student of human behaviour and the diary -- inevitably, it seems -- drew him into a period of self-analysis.

“Writing it changed me as a person,” he said.  “Diaries make you introspective by definition and possibly I became too introspective and, almost from a reaction to writing a diary and the fact that I’m retiring,  I feel I’m a lot less caught up in things and a lot more accepting now.

“The writing was almost cathartic in that having got a lot of the stuff out I’m now cleansed, as it were.”

Does he have another book in him?  “Perhaps.  I enjoyed the process of writing but the hours I spent writing I have since spent studying and there has not been time so far.  Maybe in the future…”

Follow the link to buy: Pavilion to Crease... and Back

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Promised Lane: The Reinvention of Leeds United, by Anthony Clavane: football story interwoven with social history is a triumph

According to sources that can be regarded with at least reasonable confidence as authoritative, there have been some 278 books written that can de described, one way or another, as being about Leeds United.

Among those are some fine works and many that are more run of the mill, yet to stand out from the crowd still requires something special.  Anthony Clavane has pulled it off with Promised Land: The Reinvention of Leeds United, published today (August 19th) under Random House’s Yellow Jersey imprint.

The title is no throwaway line.   It was inspired by a sign that once hung inside Leeds railway station bearing the words: ‘Leeds, the Promised Land delivered’ but, as the reader discovers quickly as he or she is drawn into a compelling narrative, the phrase has a particular resonance for the author.

Clavane grew up within a substantial and upwardly mobile Jewish community in Leeds in the 1960s and 70s and the book he has produced is a story about much more than a football club.

While the highs and lows experienced by Leeds supporters during the author’s lifetime hold the tale together as a central thread, Clavane has managed to relate the history of the team to the evolution of the Jewish population and the physical, social and cultural development of the city of Leeds.

He does so superbly and the end result is an intimate, personal account of his own life that reveals a secret history of the club and its relationship with the Jewish community and is also an affectionate and poignant celebration of an era in the life of a northern English city that may never be repeated.

Clavane, a sports writer with the Sunday Mirror, says that while the idea for the book had been germinating in his mind for some time, it was a personal milestone that provided the impetus for turning it into a reality.

“I’ve just turned 50, which I felt was a natural time to reflect on my life,” he told The Sports Bookshelf. “So the book is in part a personal memoir.

“Supporting Leeds United has been a big part of my life and I wanted to discover why I had been so passionate about the club as I was growing up and to try to explain why, when rivals such as Liverpool and Manchester United achieved sustained success, Leeds would reach the top only to fall spectacularly.

“But I also wanted to explore the development of the city of Leeds during my lifetime and its cultural history, particularly as the home of a clutch of writers, such as Alan Bennett and Keith Waterhouse, who gave the city a literary heritage which, I feel, has been largely ignored.”

Clavane was uniquely placed to witness and appreciate how the Jewish population of Leeds not only helped create the circumstances for a kind of emancipation in the city in the 1960s but were fundamental in turning Leeds United from a lowly, provincial team with little prospect of advancement to a power across Europe.

His Lithuanian great-grandfather, Phillip Clavanski, had been among the wave of Jewish migrants, fleeing persecution in the Russian Empire, who arrived in Leeds in 1900.  Some 8,000 made it to Leeds, where they settled in the Chapeltown area of the city to a life initially of squalor but which at least gave them freedom and hope.

By the time Anthony was born, the community had moved on, its standing in the city raised by the success of former immigrants such as Michael Marks (of Marks and Spencer) and the tailor, Montague Burton.  The lower middle class surroundings of Moortown were now the centre of Jewish life in Leeds.

The connections with the football club developed as the Jewish population in Leeds, by now numbering 20,000, sought to further their integration and acceptance by their Yorkshire neighbours.

“They wanted to feel that they belonged, to show that they were Leeds, and one way to do that was to show passionate support for the local football team,” Clavane said.

“At first they were involved with rugby league, which used to be much bigger than football in Leeds.  But in the 1960s the Jewish community developed wider aspirations.  Instead of being involved in a narrow, parochial rugby club, they had ambitions to successful on a wider, national level, in the same way that Burtons and Marks were becoming national brands.”

In fact, crippled by debts, Leeds United would have folded in 1961 had not three Jewish businessmen -- Manny Cussins, Albert Morris and Sidney Simon -- made the club interest free loans of £10,000 each, which then was a huge sum.  The trio joined the board that appointed Don Revie as manager.

“There is a wonderful description of the 1960s board in David Peace’s book, The Damned United,” Clavane said. “In his words, they were ‘Half Gentile, half Jew; a last, lost tribe of self-made Yorkshiremen and Israelites.  In search of the promised land; of public recognition, of acceptance and of gratitude'.”

Clavane recalls, extraordinarily, that Revie and many of the Leeds players were among his family’s neighbours in Moortown, young men, like his family, from humble roots happy to be living in modest, semi-detached houses and seeing themselves as middle class.  Forty years later, when the players of Peter Ridsdale’s ‘living the dream’ era would speed away from Elland Road in their Porsches and Ferraris to their leafy village homes well away from the city, such domestic circumstances would be unimaginable.

“Revie actually lived across the road from our family,” Clavane said. “He lived in quite a modest semi-detached house at that time, although he would later move to Alwoodley.

“Eddie Gray, Peter Lorimer and Mick Jones also lived nearby.  We could knock on their front door to get their autograph or watch Mick Jones practising his putting in his garden.  I can remember going to Jewish coffee mornings and talking to David Harvey or Eddie Gray, who would be sitting in a corner looking bored but fulfilling Revie’s wish for the players to be part of their local communities.”

Cussins and Silver would go on to be among the club’s most famous figureheads and would remain so until the ownership of English football clubs passed from self-made local businessmen to the corporate management of the modern era.  After Silver sold up in 1996, the connection with the Jewish community in Leeds largely ceased.

Clavane argues that Revie’s reinvention of Leeds United in the 1960s, transforming a team struggling near the foot of the old Second Division into one that would not only win the First Division title but take the quality of football in the English domestic game to a new level, was mirrored in a new era of optimism and self-belief in the city beyond, during which Leeds, the introverted, rather prickly northern industrial citadel, began to shed its inhibitions and discover a pride in its identity.

It was during this period that several notable writers emerged, including Waterhouse and Bennett, as well as the popular novelists Jack Higgins and Barbara Taylor-Bradford, enabling Leeds to make a contribution to modern culture that ought, in Clavane’s eyes, to be recognised in the same way that Liverpool and Manchester have been in respect of their musical heritage.

Waterhouse’s iconic novel Billy Liar, the story of a fantasist undertaker’s clerk with dreams above his station in a fictional northern city, not only draws its story from a working class population filled with a new sense of possibility, It also inspired Clavane, who began his professional life as a history teacher, in his desire to become a writer.

“Waterhouse and Alan Bennett influenced me more than anyone,” he said. “They made me want to write.”

Clavane’s portrait of Leeds the city is inevitably bleak at times, in particular when observing its more recent history, in the wake of the decline of manufacturing industry and the ravages of the Thatcher era.   He notes with some sadness that the shiny, urban chic of a revitalised city centre, once optimistically dubbed “Barcelona on the Aire” exists cheek by jowl with some of the most deprived inner-city areas in Europe.

The possibilities of the 1960s and 70s came to little in the end.  “The book is in one way a lament, an homage to a golden era, a unique set of circumstances that will not occur again,” he said.

The sadness is exacerbated by the change in atmosphere around the city and the football club in the late 1970s and early 80s, which ultimately drove Clavane away.  He settled into a family life of his own in Colchester, a world away from Leeds, although he is a proud member of a small enclave of Leeds fans known as the Essex Whites.

“I turned away from the club after the atmosphere at the ground became unpleasant, when there was racism directed at black players -- this at the club where Albert Johannesson had been an icon.  There was National Front literature being sold outside the ground,” he said.

"There was a certain amount of anti-semitism. I found myself being questioned over where I came from.  Graffiti saying ‘Hitler was a Leeds fan’ appeared outside the ground.  For a Jewish person, listening to fans making a hissing sound meant to represent the gas chambers when Spurs fans came was not a comfortable experience.”

Leeds United had sunk to their lowest point, in the third tier, when Clavane began writing, and the way in which they stumbled over the line to achieve promotion to the Championship last season confirmed that the frailties highlighted in his conclusions, the answer to his questions about why Leeds have often failed at the final hurdle and could never maintain the success they did achieve, still exist.

Those are that the club, indeed the city, lacks self-belief. Like the main character in Waterhouse’s Billy Liar, when opportunity presents itself it does not have the courage or the sense of self-worth to take it.  In short, it chokes.

It is a state of mind that Brian Clough, of all people, needed little time to identify during his tortured 44 days as manager.  As Clavane recalled, he summed it up in his programme notes before a match against Queen‘s Park Rangers one August night when he declared that Leeds, in his opinion, 'have sold themselves short’.

Clavane does not buy into the tales of incessant bad luck or conspiracy, despite several high-profile occasions when scandalously bad refereeing decisions left Leeds fans feeling robbed.

“We are not the Damned United,” he writes. “Thinking we are, however, is part of the problem.”

Click on the link to buy Promised Land: The Reinvention of Leeds United.

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Trescothick "enjoying life now"

This time a year ago, cricketer Marcus Trescothick was back in Taunton after Twenty20 finals weekend knowing that within a few weeks he would have to make an agonisingly difficult decision about whether he could represent his county, Somerset, on one of the biggest occasions in their history.

In finishing runners-up to Sussex, Somerset had qualified to play later in the autumn in the Champions League, the new multi-national Twenty20 tournament to be played in India, with a staggering $2.5 million on offer to the winners.

Trescothick faced a dilemma because while he was a key player for Somerset he had twice been forced to return home from England tours because of a depression-type illness manifesting itself in anxiety attacks.  Subsequently, he was been unable to board a plane for a pre-season tour with his county for the same reason.

Last year he took the brave decision to travel to the Champions League tournament but again was forced to return home early and announced soon afterwards that he would not attempt to play cricket abroad again.

This time, the impasse between the England and Wales Cricket Board and the Champions League organisers over the tournament dates has meant that as things stand no English team will take part in the 2010 tournament.  Trescothick therefore is spared the need to formally rule himself out of travelling.

Happily, his health is bearing up well currently, even under the additional pressures he has taken on in his first year as Somerset’s captain.

“I’m more tired after a day’s play than when my responsibility was just to go out and score runs,” he said last week.  “But I’m really enjoying the things that are making me tired.

“Whereas you had times in a game as a batsman when you could relax a little, as captain you have to be switched on for the whole game.

“You feel it at the end of a day but I enjoy the responsibility, I like having to make choices and take decisions during a game and it is always a good feeling when a decision you have made brings a reward.”

Trescothick acknowledges that his illness has the potential to flare up again but accepts the sacrifice he made in deciding he would not attempt again to travel abroad to play.

“It would have been nice to carry on my career in international cricket but having understood what was going on it was not worth the price I had to pay,” he said.

“I’ve got my head around it a lot more now and I’m enjoying my cricket and my life.”

Trescothick’s book Coming Back to Me was notable for describing his illness and recovery in intimate and sometimes harrowing detail.  Many mental heath charities now suggest it as recommended reading.

Follow the link to buy Coming Back To Me: The Autobiography of Marcus Trescothick.

For more on cricket, visit The Sports Bookshelf Shop.



'Wild swimming' books make a splash

Booksellers have reported a wave of sales in swimming titles -- although Britain’s medal successes in the pool at the European championships has nothing to do with it.

The surge of interest has followed the broadcast of the BBC Four programme 'Wild Swimming with Alice Roberts'.

The show was based on Waterlog, the account by the writer and documentary maker Roger Deakin of an attempt to swim through the British Isles.  Originally published in 1999, it enjoyed a 345 per cent week-on-week sales boost in the wake of the BBC exposure.

According to The Bookseller, sales for the week ending July 31st were 149 copies before leaping to 663 copies the following week.

Other titles also enjoyed improved sales. Punk Publishing's Wild Swimming sales jumped by almost 90 per cent week on week, from 214 copies to 406.

Jonathan Knight, publisher at Punk, said: "Sales of Daniel Start's Wild Swimming have been consistently good but the recent coverage has given us a real boost.

“This just underlines the power of TV and the importance of exposure like this to publishers.”

Waterlog has enjoyed a long-term improvement since selling just 863 copies in the UK in 2004, with the numbers above 7,000 for each of the past two years.

A companion edition to Daniel Start's Wild Swimming entitled Wild Swimming Coast is also available.

For more by Roger Deakin and more on swimming, visit The Sports Bookshelf Shop.



Kindle ignites new market for sports books

The demise of the book as we know it is almost certainly many years away still but ebook sales are about to enjoy a surge as a price war develops in the ebook reader market.

The latest version of the Amazon Kindle reader will become available in the UK from August 27th, with a Wi-Fi enabled model to retail at £109.

In response, Waterstone's have slashed the price of their Sony Pocket Edition e-book reader to £99.99, making it the cheapest on the market.

For an extra £40, Amazon customers can obtain a Kindle with worldwide 3G connectivity in at the price, with no annual contract or subscription.

The number of sports titles available so far is relatively small but still numbers almost 6,000.  Heavily illustrated books are not ideal for a 6ins screen but text-heavy titles will lend themselves to the format well.

The Kindle measures 190mm long and 123mm wide, with a thickness of 8.5mm.  At 247 grams, it weighs less than a paperback.

The big advantage over paper is that one device can hold up to 3,500 titles.  Ebook   prices are generally lower than traditional books and a new purchase can be downloaded in 60 seconds.

Laptop computer users accustomed to batteries that die in 20 minutes might be sceptical but Amazon insists that a Kindle reader can last a full month on a single top-up charge, although that does fall to 10 days if the wireless connection remains switched on.

So far, Amazon lists Start the Car: The World According to Bumble (priced at £9.02) as the best-selling sports title in its Kindle Shop, followed by Matthew Syed’s Bounce (£6.18) and We Were Young and Carefree (£7.69) by Tour de France veteran Laurent Fignon.

Mr Unbelievable, the autobiography of Chris Kamara, priced at £8.07, is the top-selling football title.

Go to Amazon's Kindle Store



Yorkshire fans queue as 'Magnificents' team up again

Author Andrew Collomosse could hardly have picked a more receptive audience if he had drawn up the invitation list himself as publishers Great Northern Books organised a book signing for his look back at Yorkshire cricket’s golden 1960s to coincide with past players’ day at Headingley during Yorkshire’s match against Nottinghamshire.

Guests at the Professional Cricketers’ Association’s annual gathering included a dozen members of the Yorkshire teams that won seven County Championships between 1959 and 1968, whose recollections of that period were assembled by Collomosse in his Magnificent Seven book.

A long queue quickly formed in the Premier Suite in Headingley’s Old Pavilion as Ray Illingworth, Brian Close, Phillip Sharpe, Bryan Stott, Ken Taylor, John Hampshire, Geoff Cope, Don Wilson and Richard Hutton took turns to sign copies of the book, boxes of which were emptying fast behind a long trestle table.

Magnificent Seven tells the story of 11 seasons between 1959 and 1969, taking in two Gillette Cup triumphs, in 1965 and 1969, as well as each of the seven title-winning years, with each chapter seen through the eyes of one or sometimes two players.

Former England captain Illingworth, now 78, described the book as a “collectors’ piece” that Yorkshire fans from that era would treasure.

“The way Andrew has put it together is interesting and different, providing a dozen or so different views of what was a special time for the club,” he said.

“It was a team that had a bit of everything, with a good depth of batting plus a bowling attack with great balance, and there was a real spirit in the dressing room, which stemmed from us being Yorkshire lads who grew up together.  It was the last real all-Yorkshire team.

“As a record of those years I think the book will make a nice collectors’ piece for supporters to keep.”

Former opening batsman Hampshire, still working at 69 as a mentor for the current group of first-class cricket umpires, echoed Illingworth’s thoughts.

“It was a really outstanding team, with probably five batsmen who could score 1,000 runs a season and four or five bowlers who could get you 100 wickets,” he said.

“The book is a fantastic record of what they achieved, unique too in that it is the only book I know about that team.

“It is an excellent idea and Andrew has done a terrific job with it.”

For more on cricket visit The Sports Bookshelf Shop.



Bumble fans in a rush to Start the Car

Cricket commentator David Lloyd’s invitation to readers to buy his book in support of a good cause has found favour with legions of his supporters, even though, as he unashamedly admits, the good cause in question is merely the ‘the David Lloyd retirement fund.’

Start the Car: The World According to Bumble has been the summer’s best-selling sports book, with sales of around 14,250 copies in less than 10 weeks, according to publishers HarperSport.

In the present climate, in which sports books commissioned for millions of pounds have been selling sometimes only in hundreds, the figures for former England coach Lloyd’s mixture of serious and semi-serious observations are extraordinary.

They also signal a shift away from the traditional format for sports autobiographies, giving fans the chance to appreciate the quirkier side of top-level performers that they might otherwise never see.

Matthew Hoggard helped establish the trend last year with Hoggy: Welcome to My World, which was aptly subtitled The Peculiar World of Matthew Hoggard, in which the former England fast bowler allowed free rein to his sense of humour in areas not limited to cricket.

Skilfully co-written by Times journalist John Westerby, who appreciated early in the plot that sports people need not be portrayed as two-dimensional characters, Hoggy took readers well beyond the field of play and into the player’s mind, revealing probably more about the real person in a few lines than could be achieved by page after page of earnest comment.

To a certain extent, Start the Car took its cue from Hoggy, its style apprising readers not only of his views on such serious matters as Twenty20 cricket and its impact on the game but of where the loquacious Lancastrian likes to go for a pint and a natter after a day’s play.

Start the Car’s success has come as a pleasant surprise for Richard Gibson, the hard-working former Press Association cricket journalist who helped Lloyd turn the project round in rapid time at the start of the year.

Gibson worked with Simon Briggs on Don't Mention the Score, a critically acclaimed, humorous journey through the ups and downs of the England football team, and with Peter Hayter on the official story of how England’s cricketers won the 2009 npower Ashes Series.

Neither came close to matching Start the Car’s impact in the shops, however, and Gibson now finds himself in the happy position of considering offers from publishers to employ his writing talents on more titles.

Start the Car: The World According to Bumble
Hoggy: Welcome to My World
Don't Mention the Score: A Masochist's History of England's Football Team
England's Ashes: The Exclusive and Official Story of the npower Ashes Series 2009

Click on the links to buy or, for other sports books, visit The Sports Bookshelf Shop.