Clare Balding heads strong sporting line-up at Ilkley Literature Festival, with Stephen Roche, Robbie Paul and Ed Smith also talking books

Television sports presenter Clare Balding leads a strong sporting line-up at the Ilkley Literature Festival, which began today in the beautiful Yorkshire spa town and continues for the next two and a half weeks.

Clare will be talking about her newly-published memoir, My Animals and Other Family, at the Kings Hall on Friday, October 12 (7.30pm).

My Animals and Other Family (Viking) is a memoir of Clare's early life at the racing stables run by her father, Ian Balding, where she sat astride legendary thoroughbreds such as Mill Reef, winner of the Derby and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, and would sometimes walk into the family kitchen to find the Queen sitting at the breakfast table.

Tour de France winner Stephen Roche, rugby league giant Robbie Paul and former England Test batsman Ed Smith are other sports stars who will be appearing at the Festival.

Roche, the Irishman who won the cycling triple crown of Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and world championship in 1987, shares the platform with ITV presenter and author Ned Boulting to discuss the roles of cyclist and journalist in the world’s greatest bike race, also at the Kings Hall, on Sunday, October 7 (4.30pm).

Stephen Roche's autobiography, Born to Ride, was published by Yellow Jersey in June this year. Ned Boulting is the author of How I Won the Yellow Jumper: Dispatches from the Tour de France, an amusing an engaging collection of memories from eight years of covering the Tour de France.

Robbie Paul, the New Zealander who won the Super League four times and the Challenge Cup twice during his 12 years with Bradford Northern, is the speaker at the Craiglands Hotel (8pm) on the same day, Sunday, October 7.

Paul's journey from bush boy to international rugby superstar is the subject of Robbie: Rugby Warrior (Great Northern Books), the autobiography he published last month.

Ed Smith, the Kent and Middlesex batsman who has become a successful author since retiring from cricket, will join Barry Johnston, son of much-loved cricket commentator Brian ‘Johnners’ Johnston, at Craiglands Hotel next Wednesday, October 3 (7.30pm), to talk about their shared passion for cricket – and the importance of luck.

Johnston, himself a broadcaster and writer, edited a Centenary Edition of An Evening with Johnners (Quiller), a collection of the stories and anecdotes that made his father's personal appearances on theatre tours so popular.  First published in 1996, the special edition, to commemorate what would have been Brian's 100th birthday, was published in May this year.

Smith, whose 2003 diary, On and Off the Field, was shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year, subsequently wrote the highly acclaimed Playing Hard Ball, a cultural study of county cricket and baseball, which he followed with the thought-provoking analysis, What Sport Tells Us About Life.

He is the author, too, of Luck: What It Means and Why It Matters, which was published this year by Bloomsbury.

The sporting line-up also includes an appearance at Ilkley Playhouse Wharfeside next Monday, October 1 (7.30pm) by Max Davidson, the novelist and Daily Telegraph journalist, who will talk about Cricket and Sequins, with reference to his unique social history, We'll Get 'Em in Sequins (Wisden Sports Writing), in which, inspired by Darren Gough's triumphant appearance on Strictly Come Dancing, he set out to explore the changing phenomenon of 'manliness' through portraits of some of Yorkshire cricket's greatest players.

And, by way of a warm-up to all these treats, Guardian music journalist and football fan Dave Simpson will make two appearances this Sunday, September 30.

Dave will be at the Rombalds Hotel at 1.30pm to deliver a Masterclass entitled A Fan's Guide to Writing About Sport before moving on to St Margaret's Hall (5pm) to discuss The Last Champions (Bantam Press), published in May this year, in which he explored the glory years of the 1990s at Leeds United, who were the last champions of the Football League's original First Division before the inception of the Premier League in 1992, after which, he argues, football changed beyond recognition as rocketing wages, billionaire owners and the dictates of television took the game away from the fans.

For full details of these and all the events at the Ilkley Literature Festival, which runs until October 14, visit http://www.ilkleyliteraturefestival.org.uk.

For more information and to buy any of the new titles mentioned, click on any of these links to the Amazon website.

My Animals and Other Family, by Clare Balding
Born to Ride: The Autobiography of Stephen Roche
How I Won the Yellow Jumper: Dispatches from the Tour de France, by Ned Boulting
Robbie Rugby Warrior: The Autobiography, by Robbie Paul
An Evening with Johnners,  by Brian Johnston; edited by Barry Johnston
Luck: What It Means and Why It Matters, by Ed Smith
We'll Get 'Em in Sequins, by Max Davidson
The Last Champions, by Dave Simpson

More books by Ed Smith
More books by Max Davidson



The Ryder Cup: The Complete History - a beautifully crafted record of one of the sporting calendar's most compelling dramas

Even in this year, dominated as it has been by the most memorable of Olympics, made even more special, on the UK side of the Atlantic at least, by the sight of a British male tennis player winning a major, the Ryder Cup still manages to capture the attention of sports fans.

Even if somehow you've had the time for no more than a cursory glance at a newspaper these last few days,  or caught only a few minutes of a television sports bulletin, you will be aware of the intensifying anticipation of this week's 39th edition of golf's unique team event, peppered by some notable tub-thumping on the part of the players, not all of it polite.

It has become, in the eyes of those taking part, golf's fifth major, a tournament as meaningful as any that they play, filling a need perhaps they did not even realise they had as they were devoting their formative years to honing their swings and perfecting their putts in solitary hours of blinkered practice.  While so many of their sports-inclined friends were also developing their skills kicking footballs or throwing rugby balls or using a piece of sculpted willow to protect three poles in the ground, they were making their way without ever knowing the sense of shared fulfilment that comes with being part of a team. No wonder they are so eager now to feel the warm embrace of belonging. 

Even Tiger Woods gets it. Early in his career, eyes fixed on overhauling Jack Nicklaus as golf's most prolific winner, Woods didn't care for the Ryder Cup, reasoning that if no one ever recalled what Nicklaus did in the Ryder Cup, as opposed to having his tally of 18 majors indelibly imprinted in their memory, then nobody would be bothered what he did in the cause of Team USA either. But then when Nicklaus was at his peak, before the notion came to light of replacing the plucky Brits with a pan-European team, it was such a one-sided non-contest that, really, nobody did care.

All that changed in 1979, when Europe made its debut at the Greenbrier Course in West Virginia.  Thereafter a proper competition ensued, one that only intensified when Europe won for the first time at The Belfry in Warwickshire in 1985 and has seemed to grow fiercer year by year ever since.

The full drama is captured in a new book published to coincide with the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah in Illinois.

The Ryder Cup: The Complete History of Golf's Greatest Competition (Carlton Books) tells the complete story, from the tournament's launch in 1927 when Great Britain played the USA for a trophy provided by Samuel Ryder, a Hertfordshire seed merchant, through the post-war dominance of the US team, to the titanic, knife-edge struggles of the modern day.

Author Nick Callow recalls each Ryder Cup, along with the great players and pairings, the captains and the courses that have created its special history.  A beautifully illustrated record of the great event, with a foreword written by Tony Jacklin, who was Europe's captain at the historic 1985 match and when Europe retained the trophy in 1987 -- winning the trophy on American soil for the first time -- and again in 1989. 

Buy The Ryder Cup: The Complete History of Golf's Greatest Competition, published by Carlton Books, direct from Amazon.

You might also like The War by the Shore, written by American golf writer and ex-professional Curt Sampson, which focuses on the famous 1991 contest in Kiawah, South Carolina, where the Americans broke Europe's winning run and where some say the Ryder Cup's unsavoury side surfaced for the first time, with some members of the American team donning military attire for practice and even wearing Desert Storm baseball caps, which was seen by many as tasteless and inappropriate so soon after the first Gulf War.  The Europeans, for their part, were accused of gamesmanship and paranoia.

And continuing the Ryder Cup theme, it is only right to mention Iain Carter's fine book on Colin Montgomerie, completed after Europe's epic 2010 victory at Celtic Manor.  Monty's Manor tells the story of how the career of one of Britain's finest golfers - runner-up in five majors - came to be defined by the Ryder Cup.

Click this link to order Monty's Manor: Colin Montgomerie and the Ryder Cup (Yellow Jersey) direct from Amazon.


Does Your Rabbi Know You're Here?, by Anthony Clavane: exclusive launch event at Wivenhoe village bookshop

Anthony Clavane, award-winning author of Promised Land: A Northern Love Story, is to make a personal appearance at the independent Wivenhoe Bookshop in the Essex village of the same name next Tuesday to talk about his new book, Does Your Rabbi Know You're Here?

One of the themes of Promised Land was the development of the Jewish community in Leeds and their involvement with Leeds United.

In Does Your Rabbi Know You're Here? Clavane expands on that theme to investigate the Jewish influence on English football on a much wider scale, from the earliest Jewish footballers to the businessmen who helped transform the sport from a working class diversion to the status it now enjoys as a multi-million pound branch of the entertainment industry.

Football has a long association with the Jewish business world and current club owners Roman Abramovich (Chelsea), Randy Lerner (Aston Villa) and the Glazer family (Manchester United) are only its latest high profile representatives.

But there is a myth that Jewish people do not play football, one that through meticulous research and many interviews Anthony Clavane sought to dismantle.   In doing so he uncovered something of a secret history.

Clavane was born in Leeds but began his journalistic career on the East Anglian Daily Times and progressed to be chief sports writer of the Sunday Mirror.  The picturesque village of Wivenhoe, on the banks of the River Colne, six miles downstream from Colchester, is where he now lives.

The Wivenhoe Bookshop's exclusive launch event for Does Your Rabbi Know You're Here? takes place on Tuesday (October 2nd) from 6.30pm at their premises in High Street, Wivenhoe.

Does Your Rabbi Know You're Here? The Story of English Football's Forgotten Tribe is published by Quercus.

Promised Land: A Northern Love Story (Yellow Jersey) was Football Book of the Year and Sports Book of the Year at the 2011 British Sports Book Awards, as well as being named Radio 2 Book Club's sports book of the year and the 2011 Sunday Times Football Book of the Year.

Buy Does Your Rabbi Know You're Here? The Story of English Football's Forgotten Tribe direct from Amazon.

Read more about Promised Land: A Northern Love Story...

Blend of football and social history is a triumph
Promised Land named Best Football Book 
Clavane's tale your choice as Sports Book of the Year

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Forthright, insightful and entertaining, Everton's legendary 'keeper Neville Southall tells the story of his life in football

Neville Southall's unvarnished account of his life in football is reviewed with approval by Eric Brown on the Sports Journalists' Association website.

The Binman Chronicles, written with the help of Liverpool-born journalist James Corbett, charts Southall's rise from odd-jobbing non-League goalkeeper to becoming a fixture between the sticks for Everton and Wales, in a career that saw him with two League championships, two FA Cups and a European Cup-Winners' Cup, as well as an MBE.

Brown is impressed with Southall's honest appraisal of the managers, players and officials he encountered as well as his thought-provoking views on Hillsborough and Heysel, and with how he takes no prisoners in assessing Everton's fall from football superpower to also-rans.

"His frank opinions in this book on the many players, managers and officials whose paths he crossed in 30-odd years are entertaining and insightful. Southall’s reflections on the Hillsborough and Heysel Stadium disasters and their consequences make particularly interesting reading.He pulls no punches when discussing management of the Wales team, Liverpool FC, and the reasons behind Everton’s decline from being the best team in England during the 1980s. Mike Walker look away now."

Read Eric Brown's full review.

James Corbett is also the author of two football histories, Everton The School of Science and England Expects, as well as the recently published 652-page Everton Encyclopedia.

Neville Southall: The Binman Chronicles is published by De Coubertin Books, a small London-based publisher specialising in non-fiction, particularly sport.

Visit the De Coubertin website

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My Animals and Other Family, by Clare Balding: Acclaimed Olympic broadcaster reveals talent for writing in charming but frank childhood memoir

Clare Balding is hardly new to television, and hardly new to winning television awards.  She picked up her first in 2003, when she was named Sports Presenter of the Year by the Royal Television Society, by which time she was long established as the face of BBC's horse racing coverage and was looking ahead to her third Olympics, having covered Atlanta for BBC radio and Sydney for television.

Since then she has become a popular and authoritative voice at Wimbledon for 5 Live and has embraced rugby league, of all sports, with the same enthusiasm and professionalism that characterises all her work.  Drafted in to help with the BBC's Diamond Jubilee coverage, she met the challenge with seemingly effortless aplomb.

Yet London 2012, her fifth summer Games, has somehow elevated her from admired and respected -- a description, you suspect, with which she would have been entirely satisfied, even as an epitaph -- to the status of national treasure in the echelons of broadcasting.  In the broader scheme of the BBC's Olympic coverage, Balding's role as swimming anchor was some way down the credits from Gary Lineker and Sue Barker but columnists were quickly falling over one another to join in a chorus of praise.   The Guardian described her performance as 'Olympic gold'.  The New Statesman agreed that she was 'witty, empathetic and charming to viewers and interviewees alike' and also admired her for deploying 'knowledge and expertise in a firm but friendly manner – never overwhelming you with statistics, but always telling you things you didn’t already know.'

In the Daily Mail, the frequently acerbic and often unforgiving Jan Moir wrote an entire piece under the headline 'Why Can't Everyone Be Clare Balding?', without even the smallest trace of irony.  Moir laid into Lineker, writing that 'his flinty self-interest and laddish reactions were brutally exposed' but described Balding as 'a broadcaster with such an exceptional skill set she makes everyone else in her orbit seem third rate'.

Could there be a more opportune moment, then, to launch an autobiography?  The release of My Animals and Other Family is timed perfectly to ride this wave of popularity and has leaped to the top of the bestseller lists within a week of publication, although anyone tempted to raise an eyebrow should not really need reminding of how long it takes in publishing to be an overnight success.

Clare signed her deal with Viking in June last year, by which time the story of her childhood was already a manuscript.   When she first picked up a pen and began to jot down ideas, she would have felt it presumptuous to assume she would be involved with London 2012 let alone emerge as one of its stars.

My Animals and Other Family will not dilute her popularity.  On one hand it is a tale of privilege, of a girl born into wealth, descended from nobility, the daughter of a handsome racehorse trainer brought up in a vast house where The Queen would drop in for breakfast.

On the other, while it was hardly intended as a misery memoir, it is one that engenders sympathy in that hers was a childhood that began with Balding's matriarchal grandmother consoling her mother for not having given birth to a boy.  For most of the subsequent years, struggling for approval and acceptance, she worried constantly about what other people would make of her appearance, her character and, latterly, her sexuality, while growing up in a male-dominated world she would in some ways come to hate.

Yet she overcame the hurdles, metaphorical and well as literal, that were in front of her.  Where her mother had been denied the opportunity of an education by a family who did not think academic attainment to be a suitable ambition for a girl, Clare studied at Cambridge and returned with a 2:1 in English.  She was also a champion amateur jockey and worked her way up the broadcasting ladder from humble trainee.

The most affectionate memories are reserved for the animals of the title, a succession of dogs and horses that each had significance for her during the first 20 years of her life.  Beginning with Candy, the chestnut-and-white boxer dog who took it upon herself to be the baby Clare's companion and protector, the story moves on to Mill Reef, the Derby winner on whose back she perched, with no saddle and certainly no helmet, aged just 18 months, without an adult in sight.  She describes these relationships with wit and charm.

As an adult, Balding has been successfully treated for cancer, been proudly open about her homosexuality -- she lives with the BBC newsreader Alice Arnold, with whom she was joined in a civil partnership in 2006 -- and has railed against bigotry, successfully complaining to the Press Complaints Commission over an article written about her in the Sunday Times, in which the writer A A Gill was ruled to have referred to her sexuality 'in a demeaning and gratuitous way'.

Those topics will presumably be developed in a second volume.  The deal signed with Viking last year was for two books.

Buy Clare Balding's My Animals and Other Family direct from amazon.co.uk



The Plan, by Steve James: Story of how Duncan Fletcher and Andy Flower transformed England cricket team wins Cricket Writers' Club award

Steve James has won the 2012 Cricket Writers' Club award for Cricket Book of the Year for his excellent dissection of England's rise to number one cricket team in the world, The Plan.

Subtitled How Fletcher and Flower Transformed English Cricket, the book essentially charts the journey the England team embarked upon when they were officially the worst team in world cricket in 1999 to their coronation as the best, holding the No 1 Test ranking, in 2011, analysing how they were guided there by the two Zimbabwean coaches, Duncan Fletcher and Andy Flower.

The Plan begins with the appointment of Fletcher as England's first overseas coach in 1999, alongside Nasser Hussain as captain, and takes the reader through the subsequent captaincies of Michael Vaughan, Andrew Flintoff and, briefly and turbulently, Kevin Pietersen, through Peter Moores's time as coach, and on to the era of Flower and Andrew Strauss.  James examines in depth how each event and decision along the way helped shape the renaissance of the England team.

It is a thorough and unbiased study, written from the perspective of a former player who knows both Fletcher and Flower well but who maintains a professional distance from both.  James, now cricket correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph, played under Fletcher at Glamorgan and ghosted two books for him, Ashes Regained and his autobiography, Behind The Shades.  He has known the Flower family for more than two decades and enjoys a relationship of mutual respect with Andy Flower.

The era covered was one of great change in cricket across the world.  It would have been easy for James to over-complicate his narrative by being drawn into discussions of much wider issues and it is another plus that he manages to add his observations to a number of debates without straying outside the context of his central theme.  His descriptions of the Mumbai terror attacks, in which the England team were fortunate not to become directly involves, and his discussions of the moral dilemmas that surrounded playing cricket in Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe make compelling reading.

James is a good writer who maintains an uncomplicated style that allows his observations to retain their clarity.  Based on many interviews, not with the two central characters in the book but with those in a position to contribute to a balanced assessment of their place in the history of the game, The Plan is a well presented and coherent document that is a deserving winner of the CWC award.

The Plan: How Fletcher and Flower Transformed English Cricket is published by Bantam Press. Click on the link to buy direct from amazon.co.uk

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Jimmy: My Story, by James Anderson: What England's No 1 fast bowler thinks about Vaughan, Hussain, Fintoff... but not Kevin Pietersen

The latest episode in the Kevin Pietersen saga came too late for James Anderson to lay into his ostracised teammate in his new book. Not that he would have been wise to, anyway, given the furore that followed Graeme Swann's honest but entirely polite criticism of KP's leadership qualities.

Jimmy: My Story made the transition from interviews to words on the page in the skilled hands of the same ghostwriter who worked with Swann on The Breaks Are Off, in which the England off-spinner suggested that Pietersen was 'not a natural leader'.

The comment was one that Andy Flower, the England coach, felt Swann should have kept to himself while the two were sharing a dressing room, while Pietersen responded by saying that it was 'not a clever book (to write) in the middle of your career'.

No surprise, then, that fast bowler Anderson confines his comments to former teammates such as his ex-captains, Michael Vaughan, whose leadership style he didn't care for, and Nasser Hussain, whom he likened to 'a friendly sergeant major.'

He also felt his Lancashire teammate, Andrew 'Freddie' Flintoff was unsuited to leadership. "Fred was a good mate," Anderson wrote, "but, in my opinion, it was an emotional decision to appoint him. The logical choice would have been Andrew Strauss, who stood out in that team. Flintoff was very passionate but as an England captain you need more than that. You need to be tactically astute and switched on."

Burnley-born Anderson, who turned 30 in July, is the fifth most successful Test match bowler in the history of English cricket with 276 wickets and will hope within the next 12 months to become only the fourth to top 300 wickets, joining Sir Ian Botham, Bob Willis and Fred Trueman.

Anderson’s career began at Burnley Cricket Club, where he first discovered his talent for bowling fast, before he joined Lancashire and was identified by England as a rising star.  A career-halting injury stalled his progress but he fought back to reach the pinnacle of achievement by becoming an Ashes winner at home and away, making this a tale of determination and sheer force of character.

Jimmy: My Story, written by James Anderson with the help of Richard Gibson, is published today by Simon & Schuster.

Buy Jimmy: My Story direct from Amazon.co.uk

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The Secret Race, by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle: Tour de France winner lifts lid on doping, cover-ups and what drove Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong's continuing denial that he took performance-enhancing drugs is at odds with claims made by his former team-mate, Tyler Hamilton, in a new book.

Hamilton's book The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France - Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs (Bantam Press) alleges that Armstrong was doping during his first three Tour de France wins.

Himself banned three times after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs, former Tour winner Hamilton claims Armstrong was so open about using EPO he would keep it in the fridge, next to the milk.

The book was conceived in 2009, when Hamilton and Daniel Coyle met for dinner at a restaurant in Boulder, Colorado. The two had met five years before while Coyle was writing his bestselling book, Lance Armstrong: Tour de Force.

During the interim years, however, Tyler had been sitting on a lot of information he had not previously disclosed, not just about Armstrong but the sport of cycling in general. He finally wanted to come clean, about everything: the doping, the lying, his years as Armstrong's teammate on the US Postal team.

He had spent a decade, he confessed, spent running from the truth. Over the next 18 months, Hamilton would tell his story in explosive detail, never sparing himself in the process. The result is The Secret Race, a book that pulls back the curtain on the secret world of professional cycling, a world populated by driven and sometimes flawed characters, where any means to get an edge was worthy of consideration.

In the book, Hamilton describes Armstrong as being "haunted by what others might be doing" and obsessed with keeping one step ahead of his rivals, while having no fear of getting caught.

Hamilton also reveals his own mantra for beating the drug testers. "Tip one: Wear a Watch. Tip Two: Keep your cellphone handy. Tip three: Know your glowtime, how long you'll test positive after you take the substance. What you'll notice is that none of these things is particularly difficult to do. That's because the tests were very easy to beat."

Buy The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France - Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs direct from Amazon.co.uk

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