20100804

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.

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