Beware of the Dog lands Bookie prize for rugby tough guy Moore

A sporting life with a darker side has again found favour with the judging panel for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year, who have awarded the richest prize for sports writing to the ex-England and British Lions rugby star Brian Moore.

The former hooker, known as ‘Pit Bull’ in his playing days in the 1990s, scooped the £22,000 award for his harrowing, soul-baring autobiography Beware of the Dog: Rugby's Hardman Reveals All.

Two years ago, the William Hill judges went for former England cricketer Marcus Trescothick’s autobiography, Coming Back to Me, which broke new ground in the sports book genre by discussing the depression that ended the Somerset batsman’s international career.

Moore’s memoirs are equally raw and revealing, in the most deeply personal and painful sense, bringing to light for the first time the sexual abuse he suffered as a boy at the hands of a trusted friend of his adoptive parents.

Beware of the Dog beat off competition from a strong field that included Andre Agassi‘s autobiography Open, the widely-acclaimed fishing-and-more memoir, Blood Knots, by Luke Jennings, and Duncan Hamilton’s A Last English Summer, with which the author was attempting to win an unprecedented  hat-trick of 'Bookie' prizes.

Moore was reduced to tears when he was presented with the award by broadcaster John Inverdale at the Waterstone’s store in Piccadilly, London.

"No rugby victory ever brought me to tears,” he said. “I'm astonished to have won having seen the quality of the authors.”

Bounce, Matthew Syed’s study of how champions are made, and Trautmann’s Journey, which details the story of the legendary Manchester City goalkeeper’s association with the Hitler Youth and support for the Nazi regime, were also deemed less worthy of the prize than Moore’s exploration of his troubled past.

Moore, who spent 17 years as a solicitor, has clearly gained from his more recent experience as a Daily Telegraph journalist, which has equipped him with the skills to write Beware of the Dog himself.  By contrast, Agassi’s confessional effort was ghosted by the Pulitzer Prize-winning American writer, J R Moehringer.

The rugby tough guy has described the writing as cathartic, helping him at least to begin to address the inner demons that drove him to relish violent conflict on the field as well as wreaking havoc in his private life.

His story begins at its most damaging moment, with a graphic account of his sexual abuse at the age of 10, on a school trip, by a teacher friend of his Methodist step-parents. He also describes the feelings of rejection he experienced when he learned that he had been given up by his blood mother and suggests that the self-destructive, nasty streak to which he freely admits probably has its root in those two events.

There is much in the book, too, about the rugby career that brought 64 England caps as well as three Grand Slams.  But it is the gritty honesty with which he recounts his private pain that sets Beware of the Dog apart.

Graham Sharpe, the long-time media face of bookmakers William Hill and co-founder of the prize, was unstinting in his praise for Moore’s tour de force.

“As a trained solicitor and a lover of opera, fine wine and Shakespeare, Brian Moore in no ordinary sportsman,” Sharpe said. “So it follows that this is no ordinary book. Candid and rigorous, it's a uniquely engaging book and a fascinating exploration of what lies beneath the tough exterior of one of England's greatest rugby players".

Waterstone's sports buyer Joe Browes added: "For a memoir to lift itself above the rest, the author must give something of themselves to the writing, as Marcus Trescothick did when he won the William Hill award.

“Moore displays the same honesty that made Trescothick's book so memorable and he thoroughly deserves this prize.”

Publishers Simon & Schuster responded to the news by  bringing forward paperback publication of Beware of the Dog to next week, two months ahead of the planned date in February next year.

The book reveals that Moore's years as a player were undermined by self-doubt and that acts of violence on the pitch were committed with a certain relish. In it, he further explains that retirement added a sense of loss to the other complications in his character and that he is still battling to an extent with his inner torment, although his third marriage is thankfully a happy one and his media career is flourishing.

Moore’s acceptance comments paid tribute to the support he has received from many friends in helping him through difficult times in his career and personal life.

"More than anything the fact that I'm still around to tell the story is a testament to people who helped me at times when I didn't necessarily deserve help,” he said.

“But they managed to stick with me and I hope in some way I have done them justice with the way I have covered them in the book."

For details of how to buy Beware of the Dog: Rugby's Hard Man Reveals All, simply follow the link.

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