Counting down to William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2015 Announcement

The winner of the 2015 William Hill Sports Book of the Year will be revealed at a lunchtime ceremony at BAFTA in London on Thursday.  Here is a reminder of the six titles shortlisted for the award.

Speed Kings: The 1932 Winter Olympics and the Fastest Men in the World, by Andy Bull (Bantam Press)

The early days of bobsleigh were dominated by rich and adventurous young men drawn to the thrill of hurtling along sheer ice tracks at breakneck speeds, typified by the disparate group that came together to win the four-man bob titles for America at the Winter Olympics in 1928 and 1932.  Andy Bull traces their back stories in a tale of loose living, risk taking and hell raising from a golden age of decadence.

"Hollywood stars, politicians, royalty, gangsters and other denizens of the demi-monde – hedonists and hucksters, harlots and heroes – flicker through a well-paced narrative," wrote Richard Williams in The Guardian, commenting that although none of the quartet survived to talk to Bull, "such is the diligence of his research and his sensitivity to the story in all its many dimensions that few could feel that he has not done justice to their world."

Also available from Waterstones and WHSmith

Living on the Volcano: The Secrets of Surviving as a Football Manager, by Michael Calvin (Century)

Award-winning author and journalist Michael Calvin interviewed more than 20 football managers from the Premier League to League Two in an attempt to discover just what it is like to attempt survival in one of the most pressurised and insecure professions in any walk of life, extracting some extraordinary and sometimes harrowing insights into the life of his interviewees, one of whom underwent electric shock treatment in a desperate bid to overcome stress-induced depression.

"Calvin is an exquisite writer but he is also a “proper” journalist," wrote Janine Self at www.sportsjournalists.co.uk. "If a manager wants to keep talking, thus revealing far more than he perhaps intended, Calvin sits back and allow the dictaphone to take the strain then lets the quotes run."

Also available from Waterstones and WHSmith

Fifty-Six: The Story of the Bradford Fire, by Martin Fletcher (Bloomsbury)

Bradford fire survivor Martin Fletcher tells the gripping, heart-rending story of unthinkable loss following a spring afternoon at a football match, of how 56 people died, and of the truths he unearthed as an adult looking into the circumstances of a tragedy that claimed the lives of his father and brother, his grandfather and an uncle. This is the story – 30 years on – of the disaster football has never properly acknowledged.

Ian Herbert wrote in The Independent: “Above all else, it is a beautifully observed and incredibly detailed memoir of a son's relationship with the father he lost at the age of 12."

Also available from Waterstones and WHSmith

The Game of Our Lives: The Meaning and Making of English Football, by David Goldblatt (Viking)

David Goldblatt takes a look at the ways in which British football reflects the changes and fortunes of society. He writes of how English football, once a dying working-class game that reflected the nation's declining fortunes, became the richest, most popular form of entertainment in the country.

"A refreshingly candid view of the English game as the intersection of the scepter'd island's two greatest traditions: tribalism and your puffy-coated-spiv’s fascination with money." --Timothy Spangler for www.forbes.com.

Also available from Waterstones and WHSmith

Fire in Babylon: How the West Indies Cricket Team Brought a People to its Feet, by Simon Lister (Yellow Jersey)

Simon Lister explores how the 1970s West Indies cricket team became one of the most successful in history, and how this success, in a sport traditionally associated with British colonialism and racial suppression, fostered a sense of pride among in the independent Caribbean islands and in the West Indian community in Britain.

Nicholas Hogg wrote at www.espncricinfo.com -- "By entwining a social history of the West Indies, especially the post-war exodus to Britain, with the cricketing journey of the Caribbean, Lister has produced an authoritative and at times thrilling text."

Also available from Waterstones and WHSmith

A Man's World: The Double Life of Emile Griffith, by Donald McRae (Simon & Schuster)

In this biography of the five-time world champion boxer, Emile Griffith, Donald McRae --twice a previous winner of this award -- writes of the struggles Griffith faced as a gay, black man in an era of deep-seated racism and homophobia. Griffith, taunted at the weigh-in before one title fight, beat up his opponent so severely he subsequently died.  Later, Griffith would speak of the irony of being forgiven for killing a man but persecuted for loving one.

"McRae's work always mixes top-notch research, equally key insights and stellar writing. This book is no different." -- Thomas Gerbasi for www.boxingscene.com

Also available from Waterstones and WHSmith

The William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award, now in its 27th year, is the world's longest established and most valuable sportswriting prize. As well as a £27,000 cash prize, the winning author will receive a free £2,500 William Hill bet and a day at the races.

Making up this year's judging panel are: retired player and former chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association Clarke Carlisle; broadcaster and writer John Inverdale; broadcaster Danny Kelly; award-winning journalist Hugh McIlvanney; and columnist and author Alyson Rudd. Chairman of the judging panel is John Gaustad, co-creator of the Award and founder of the Sportspages bookshop.

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