20110421

Slipless in Settle puts Pearson in exalted company

Harry Pearson’s first attempt to become a journalist foundered because his spelling was too poor but he never gave up his ambition and should be the example to whom frustrated budding writers refer when faced with a knockback.

A quarter of a century or so later, Pearson has a popular column in The Guardian newspaper and books with his name on the cover now run into double figures, several titles having attracted much critical acclaim.

This week added another line to an impressive record when the brilliantly titled Slipless in Settle, his ramble around the northern league cricket circuit, beat off strong competition to win the Cricket Society and MCC Book of the Year Award 2011, which carries a prize of £3,000.

The roll call of past winners includes EW Swanton, JM Kilburn, David Frith, David Foot and, more recently, Scyld Berry and Gideon Haigh, so Pearson is in exalted company, at least in terms of cricket writers.

Pearson said that the inspiration for the book came from his youthful cricket-watching and spoke also of his father's contribution, which was to define “the north” as everything above a line drawn from the mouth of the Mersey to the mouth of the Humber, by which definition, as judging panel chairman Vic Marks commented, Geoffrey Boycott is a southerner.

The winner beat an impressive shortlist comprising Now I'm 62 by Stephen Chalke, A Last English Summer by Duncan Hamilton, The Cricketer's Progress - From Meadowland to Mumbai by Eric Midwinter and Following On by David Tossell.

Midwinter’s epic social history of cricket was voted Wisden’s cricket Book of the Year only last week.

Pearson’s back catalogue reflects the author’s willingness to venture into a wide range of subjects.  His first, The Far Corner: A Mazy Dribble Through North-East Football, was runner-up for William Hill Sports Book of the Year, while Racing Pigs and Giant Marrows, which takes the north of England’s abundance of summer fairs and country shows as its theme,  was shortlisted for the Thomas Cook/Daily Telegraph Travel Book of the Year.  In a review of A Tall Man In A Low Land, in which he sought to discover what makes Belgians tick, Pete Davies, writing in The Independent, reckoned Pearson was “as funny as Bill Bryson”.

*Harry Pearson's Slipless in Settle: A Slow Turn Around Northern Cricket is published by Little Brown. Click on the link to buy.

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