Award-winning cricket writer looks to Chalke up a hat-trick

Stephen Chalke did not take up cricket writing until 1997, when he was in his 50th year, yet it is a measure of the strong contribution he has made to the genre that there are few cricket libraries or personal collections that do not contain something he has written or published.
His publishing business, Fairfield Books, has grown from its beginnings as a self-publishing vehicle for his own debut book to boasting a catalogue that now stands at about 30 titles. His authors include veteran cricket journalist David Foot, broadcaster Pat Murphy and the current Nottinghamshire batsman, Mark Wagh.
No fewer than seven Fairfield titles have captured national book awards.  
The latest, Of Didcot And The Demon, a collection of the cricket writings of former Times reporter Alan Gibson, was Cricket Society and MCC Book of the Year in 2010, scooping the award for Fairfield for the second year running and for an unprecedented third time overall.
Fairfield has also won the National Sporting Club Cricket Book of the Year twice and Wisden Book of the Year twice, an achievement not matched by any other publisher.  Chalke has won each of those awards in his own right.
Yet the Chalke imprint could break new ground again when the 2011 Cricket Society-MCC winner is announced on April 19, with Chalke’s own semi-autobiographical diary of a season, Now I'm 62, among the titles on a shortlist of five.
Although up against a strong field comprising Duncan Hamilton’s A Last English Summer (Quercus Books), The Cricketer’s Progress – Meadowland to Mumbai by Eric Midwinter (Third Age Press), Harry Pearson’s Slipless in Settle – A Slow Turn Around Northern Cricket (Little Brown) and Following On - A Year with English Cricket’s Golden Boys by David Tossell (Pitch Publishing), Chalke’s story of the 2010 season at Winsley Cricket Club in Wiltshire should be considered a strong contender for the prize.
Chalke, captain of Winsley’s third eleven, changed the names of the club and the players to afford himself a degree of artistic licence but journalist Simon Redfern of The Independent, who has played cricket alongside the author for 20 years, testified to its authenticity in his review:
“There is far more diary than fiction in his account of captaining a lowly league side in Wiltshire while also turning out for the wandering friendly side he helped to found.
“Why not, then, just play it straight? Possibly because changing names and locations has given Chalke more freedom to discuss his team-mates, and his family, without the fear of offending any sensibilities. 
“There is plenty of humour as, using the nom de jeu Philip Stone, he recalls desperate scrambles to field a full team, and the foibles of the players finally assembled.
“ But he doesn't play it strictly for laughs in the vein of Marcus Berkmann's book with a similar theme, Zimmer Men; interwoven is a more introspective thread.
“Remembering how his father made a fool of himself at the age of 62 in his last game, Stone/Chalke reflects on his childhood and relationship with his parents, while wondering whether he is also in danger of making a fool of himself by playing on.
“An unusual book, beautifully written, in my opinion it works triumphantly on several levels.”


The Cricket Society-MCC Shortlist
A Last English Summer by Duncan Hamilton (Quercus)
Slipless in Settle: A Slow Turn Around Northern Cricket by Harry Pearson (Little, Brown)
Following on: A Year with English Cricket's Golden Boys by David Tossell (Know The Score)
The Cricketers' Progress: Meadowland to Mumbai by Eric Midwinter (Third Age Press)



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