Simon & Schuster re-release three classics from acclaimed sports writer Donald McRae

Fans of the Guardian writer Donald McRae will be delighted to discover that three of his classic sports books have been reissued by Simon & Schuster.

Dark Trade, originally published by Mainstream, established McRae as a sports writer of distinction when it won the William Hill Sports Book of the Year in 1996.

Written over a five-year period, it was based on a series of encounters with boxers, including Mike Tyson, James "Lights Out" Toney, Oscar de la Hoya, Roy Jones Jr, Michael Watson and Chris Eubank. Nine out of the 10 publishers to whom he submitted his proposal rejected it before Mainstream saw its potential.

Two years later, by which time the South African-born McRae had given up his office job in London to write full time, he was shortlisted for the William Hill prize again for Winter Colours, also published by Mainstream.

In Winter Colours, McRae explored the place occupied by rugby union in the culture of the different countries in which it is played, inspired by his meetings with James Small, the winger who was part of the South Africa team that was part of one of sport's great iconic moments at Ellis Park in Johannesburg in 1995, when they won the World Cup in the presence of Nelson Mandela.

The third classic reissue is In Black and White, William Hill Sports Book of the Year in 2002, which tells the story of the friendship between Jesse Owens and Joe Louis, Olympic gold medallist and World champion boxer, black American icons born into an era when their country was still riven by poverty and racial divisions.

All three have been updated with new chapters and stylish cover designs.

McRae returns to boxing next year with a new book entitled A Man's World: The Double Life of Emile Griffith, which tells the story of an American boxer who not only managed to managed to conceal his homosexuality while pursuing a successful career in the fight game but also spoke out against apartheid in South Africa in the 70s.

Buy Dark Trade: Lost in Boxing from Amazon, Waterstones or WHSmith.

Buy Winter Colours: The Changing Seasons of Rugby from Amazon, Waterstones or WHSmith

Buy In Black and White: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Joe Louis from Amazon, Waterstones or WHSmith.

Donald McRae has also written about the London sex trade in Nothing Personal, the extraordinary race between four heart surgeons to carry out the first heart transplant in Every Second Counts and the great 1920s American lawyer Clarence Darrow in The Old Devil. Find out more.

He collaborated with Olympic cycling champion Victoria Pendleton on her autobiography Between the Lines and wrote a personal memoir of growing up in the South Africa of apartheid, Under Our Skin.



From the author of Britain's Lost Cricket Grounds, a celebration of the golden era of cricket festivals

Cricket festivals were once as much a part of the English sporting summer as Test matches, Wimbledon and the Epsom Derby.
They were the chance for the cricket counties to venture from their metropolitan headquarters into the shires, where club grounds would dress themselves up to welcome the stars of the county and international circuits.

Chris Arnot, author of the wonderfully nostalgic Britain's Lost Cricket Grounds, has now written an equally engaging tour of the country's rich cricket heritage that puts the spotlight on that cherished era.

In his introduction to Britain's Lost Cricket Festivals, the Warwickshire-based journalist notes that as recently as 1961 there were 64 cricket festivals in the county fixture schedule, an average of three per county.

By 2001 this had dwindled to 16; today there are fewer still.  Cheltenham and Scarborough continue, and there has been a revival of county cricket in Chesterfield, which Derbyshire deserted between 1998 and 2006.  Other outgrounds survive, and there are other mini-festivals, but with a different structure to the Championship and more exacting standards for facilities, most of the genuine cricket weeks of old have gone.

Unlike Arnot's disappearing grounds, some bulldozed in name of progress and turned into shopping centres, others left to the tumbleweed, the homes of the lost, lamented festivals for the most part still exist, as public parks or local cricket clubs, and he spent a memorable summer in 2013 exploring as many as he could pull in.

"I started in March at Stourbridge in Worcestershire and ended in Scarborough in August, visiting grounds all over the country.  I was lucky in that it was a glorious weather.  It's probably the best summer I've ever had," he said.

Arnot unearths some new tales and revisits some much-loved old ones.  No cricketing yarns about Buxton, for example, could fail to include the famous snow storm of Monday, June 2, 1975, which halted play between Derbyshire and Lancashire and produced one of the most extraordinary matches of the century.

Cheltenham College hosts the annual Cheltenham
Festival in Gloucestershire
When play resumed on the Tuesday, Derbyshire had to bat on an uncovered pitch into which the snow had melted. Replying to the 477 for five declared posted by Lancashire in the heat of the Saturday, Derbyshire were bowled out for 87 and 42. Such was the hazardous nature of the pitch, the Derbyshire batsman Ashley Harvey-Walker, Arnot relates, took guard after handing umpire Dickie Bird his false teeth.

"It was at Buxton, too, that John Arlott confounded the locals, having turned up to commentate on a Sunday League game without his fabled briefcase full of claret, by asking if the pavilion bar possessed a bottle of good red," he said. "The First XI captain, Peter Cockram, had to tell him they only drank beer but took pity on him and spent the opening overs of the ground's first-ever John Player League game scouring the local branch of Victoria Wines for a decent claret."

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Arnot tells another wonderful tale passed on to him by Mike Turner, the former Leicestershire player and later secretary-manager, of the county side's visits to the Bath Grounds at Ashby de la Zouch.

"The ground adjoined the gardens of the nearby Royal Hotel, which was owned by a posh chap called Richard Derrington-Fenning," he said. "He wore a pin-striped suit and drove a yellow Rolls-Royce and provided hospitality for the players in the form of a four-course lunch so lavish they had to had extend the 40-minute break to an hour.  He always advised people to choose the monkey gland steak, whatever that was."

Arnot's tour opened his eyes to the pleasures of Cheltenham and Chesterfield and what he had missed as a cricket fan of urban roots.

"I grew up watching cricket at Edgbaston -- I was born in Birmingham and never knew any better -- but on an average county day now it is a huge ground with vast areas of empty seats and the players hidden away in their changing rooms," Arnot said.

"There is so much more of an intimate feel to the outgrounds, the spectators are closer to the players, it feels more of an occasion.

"You can understand why counties want to maximise their headquarters grounds, having in many cases spent a lot of money on providing their players with reliable pitches and state-of-the-art facilities.

"But festivals can be such pleasurable occasions and I hope I've conveyed a sense of that in the book."

Britain's Lost Cricket Festivals: The Idyllic Club Grounds that Will Never Again Host the World's Best Players, by Chris Arnot (Aurum Press) is available from Amazon, WaterstonesWHSmith and other retailers.

Also by Chris Arnot: Britain's Lost Cricket Grounds. Read more.