Duncan Hamilton is in the running to land an unprecedented hat-trick of William Hill Sports Book of the Year awards after his musings of the state of cricket in A Last English Summer was named on the long list for the 2010 prize.
The former Nottingham Evening Post and Yorkshire Post journalist won in 2007 for Provided You Don’t Kiss Me: 20 Years With Brian Clough and again last year with his biography of Bodyline fast bowler Harold Larwood.
Hamilton’s latest was among 13 titles chosen by the award organisers from an entry of more than 130. A shortlist will be announced on October 26th.
Andre Agassi’s tennis confessional Open, Zimbabwe cricketer Henry Olonga’s Blood, Sweat and Treason and former boxer Errol Christie’s No Place to Hide, a disturbing tale of growing up as a black person in the Britain of the 1970s and 80s, are likely to be leading contenders.
The standards are high and competition tough but the absence of Anthony Clavane’s brilliant sociological sports history, Promised Land, is a surprise nonetheless.
It would certainly seem every bit as worthy as Blood Knots, in which the dance critic of The Observer (Luke Jennings) recalls being taught fly fishing and falconry by an intelligence officer (Robert Nairac) subsequently killed by the IRA, and which seems to have somewhat tenuous qualifications.
And it is difficult to imagine that John Nicholson’s We Ate All the Pies carries more intellectual weight, however wittily the widely-followed football blogger sets out his theories on the enduring popularity of football as an English cultural phenomenon.
Two Times journalists make the long list. Matthew Syed’s Bounce: How Champions Are Made is recognised for the depth of the former Commonwealth table tennis champion’s investigation into the factors that lead to success in sport. And Simon Barnes -- who might have written Syed’s book, one suspects, if he’d had the idea first -- indulges himself by assembling 50 inspirational sports men, women (and horses) from the last 50 years in A Book of Heroes.
Boxing has another contender from the accomplished journalist and prolific author Bob Mee, who focuses in Liston and Ali: The Ugly Bear and the Boy Who Would Be King on the two fights between the then Cassius Clay and the erstwhile world heavyweight champion Sonny Liston, and how they had significance in a political and cultural context in America during the 1960s.
Sport is something of a sub-plot in Trautmann’s Journey: From Hitler Youth to FA Cup Legend, in which BBC television producer Catrine Clay concentrates more on the former Manchester City goalkeeper’s Nazi past than his career in football. Bert Trautmann, who famously played on with a broken neck during City’s F A Cup final victory over Birmingham City, had been a loyal member of the Hitler Youth who became a paratrooper and did not conceal his contempt for enemies of the Third Reich before winding up in a POW camp in Lancashire.
Rugby fans will be rooting for Tom English’s The Grudge: Scotland v England, 1990, which captures the gripping drama of the extraordinary encounter at Murrayfield in 1990 in which the Calcutta Cup, Triple Crown, Grand Slam and Five Nations championship would be decided simultaneously. Brian Moore’s Beware of the Dog: Rugby’s Hard Man Reveals All is also listed.
If the distance running community had its way, their would be only one winner: Rob Hadgraft’s Tea With Mr Newton. Subtitled 100,000 Miles, The Longest Protest March in History, it tells the story of Arthur Newton, a Englishman who settled in South Africa in the years before World War One and who launched his athletics career by accident when he decided to run a marathon in the hope of garnering support in a land dispute with the South African government. He won the race by a wide margin and went on to set a string of long-distance records before becoming a renowned coach.
The William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award, the world’s longest established prize for literary sports writing, is worth £22,000 to the winner, supplemented by a £2,000 bet with the sponsors, who will also present the champion author with a hand-bound copy of the winning book and be his or her host for a day at the races.
This year’s judges are the BBC’s John Inverdale, sports writing legend Hugh McIlvanney, broadcaster Danny Kelly and another Times writer, Alyson Rudd. Chairman of the panel is John Gaustad, co-creator of the award. The winner will be announced on November 30th.
The full long list (click on the title for details on how to purchase):
Open: An Autobiography by Andre Agassi (Harper Collins)
A Book of Heroes: Or a Sporting Half Century by Simon Barnes (Short Books)
No Place to Hide: How I Put the Black in the Union Jack by Errol Christie with Tony McMahon (Aurum)
Trautmann's Journey: From Hitler Youth to FA Cup Legend by Catrine Clay (Yellow Jersey)
The Grudge: Scotland vs. England, 1990 by Tom English (Yellow Jersey)
Tea with Mr Newton: 100, 000 Miles - The Longest 'protest March' in History by Rob Hadgraft (Desert Island Books)
A Last English Summer by Duncan Hamilton (Quercus)
Blood Knots by Luke Jennings (Atlantic Books)
Liston and Ali: The Ugly Bear and the Boy Who Would Be King by Bob Mee (Mainstream)
Beware of the Dog: Rugby's Hard Man Reveals All by Brian Moore (Simon & Schuster)
We Ate All The Pies?: How Football Swallowed Britain Wholeby John Nicholson (Biteback)
Blood, Sweat & Treason by Henry Olonga (Vision Sports Publishing)
Bounce: How Champions are Made by Matthew Syed (Fourth Estate)
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