Book Review: Beneath the Floodlights by Martin Tracey

Martin Tracey’s Beneath the Floodlights belongs to that tiny category of fiction, Vampire Football. The mixing of these two very different genres makes it a difficult book to review by a website dedicated to football book reviews. Put simply, combining the two genres doesn’t work and from a football fan’s point of view that is because so much is of no real interest to them.

Extending a footballing cliché, structurally, it is a novel of two halves. The problem in the first half of the novel is that those wanting to read about football keep being frustrated by having to read several chapters about vampires or sex or vampires and sex before getting back to the footie stuff.

The problem in the second half is that Tracey combines the two in a highly improbable manner by getting the vampires to infiltrate their way into the football world, in particular racking up huge scores whenever they play ‘under the floodlights’, i.e. after sunset.

Forcing the soccer metaphor even further, the football reader finally (Chapter 57!, p334) finds something closer to what they were looking for all along when the story turns into a traditional, vampire-free, we won the Cup after being two goals down like Everton did in ’66, make-believe kind of tale.  By then, though, it is far too late for all but the most dedicated of readers.

The general writing level is sound, with an effective range of vocabulary and control of expression yet with some occasional lapses like “when Kingsbarr United became relegated”. There are also occasions where some West Midlands dialect obtrudes; National newspapers had ran (p142) and Jody must have drank enough alcohol (p244) for example.

The narrative, throughout, is controlled with energy and skill. There is a clear authorial engagement but there are far too many threads to interweave; Medieval England, Romania, modern-day England, a fair amount of sex where ‘thrusting manhood’s’ do many manly thrusts, lost children, adopted children, lost children who are then found, fangs all-too-frequently sunk into necks, blood being drained from bodies, people getting turned into vampires, people getting turned back into humans. Then there are the football bits, relegation from the Premiership, promotion from the Championship and, finally, the Cup Final.

Vampire fantasy and football fiction, at least in this case, don’t work. It is too far-fetched and disbelief can only be willingly suspended for so long. Anyway, the best football fiction is the most real and believable.

Graeme Garvey

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Posted August 23, 2014 by Editor in category "Reviews

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