2014 William Hill Sports Book of the Year: Short-list
The winner of the 26th William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award will be announced on 27 November and will receive £25,000, a £2,500 William Hill bet, a hand-bound copy of their book and a day at the races.
The short-list is as follows:
Alone: The Triumph and Tragedy of John Curry by Bill Jones (Bloomsbury)
One winter’s night in 1976, over 20 million people in Britain watched John Curry skate to Olympic glory on an ice rink in Austria. Many millions more watched around the world. Overnight he became one of the most famous men on the planet. He was awarded the OBE. He was chosen as BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
Curry had changed ice skating from marginal sport to high art. And yet the man was – and would always remain – an absolute mystery to a world that had been dazzled by his gift. Surely, men’s skating was supposed to be Cossack-muscular, not sensual and ambiguous like this. Curry himself was an often-tortured man of labyrinthine complexity.
For the first time, Alone untangles the extraordinary web of his toxic, troubled, brilliant – and short – life. It is a story of childhood nightmares, furious ambition, sporting genius, lifelong rivalries, homophobia, Cold War politics, financial ruin and deep personal tragedy.
Alone reveals the restless, impatient, often dark soul of a man whose words could lacerate, whose skating invariably moved audiences to tears, and who – after succumbing to AIDS, as so many of his fellow artists and friends did – died of a heart attack aged just 44.
Bobby Moore: The Man in Full by Matt Dickinson (Yellow Jersey Press)
This is the Sunday Times Bestseller. ‘Immaculate footballer. Imperial defender. Immortal hero of 1966. Master of Wembley. Captain extraordinary. Gentleman of all time.’ These are some of the words inscribed beneath the statue of England’s World Cup-winning captain, Bobby Moore, at Wembley stadium.
Since Moore’s death, of bowel cancer at just 51, these accolades represent the accepted view of this national treasure. But what do we actually know about Bobby Moore as a person? What about the grit alongside the glory?
Moore was undeniably an extraordinary captain and player. Pele called him the greatest – and fairest – defender he ever played against. His feats for West Ham United and England are legendary and his technical mastery of the game ahead of its time. Few footballers since have come close to his winning combination of intelligence, skill, temperament and class.
Yet off the pitch, Moore knew scandal, divorce and drink. What about the string of failed businesses, whispers of bad behaviour, links to the East End underworld and turbulent private life? Ignored by the football world post-retirement, this great of the game drifted into obscurity and, famously, there was no knighthood.
Acclaimed football writer Matt Dickinson traces the journey of this Essex boy who became the patron saint of English football, peeling away the layers of legend and looking at Moore’s life from all sides – in triumph, in failure, in full.
Floodlights and Touchlines: A History of Spectator Sport by Rob Steen (Bloomsbury)
Spectator sport is living, breathing, non-stop theatre for all. Focusing on spectator sports and their accompanying issues, tracing their origins, evolution and impact, inside the lines and beyond the boundary, this book offers a thematic history of professional sport and the ingredients that magnetise millions around the globe.
It tells the stories that matter: from the gladiators of Rome to the runners of Rift Valley via the innovator-missionaries of Rugby School; from multi-faceted British exports to the Americanisation of professionalism and the Indianisation of cricket.
Rob Steen traces the development of these sports which captivate the turnstile millions and the mouse-clicking masses, addressing their key themes and commonalities, from creation myths to match fixing via race, politics, sexuality and internationalism. Insightful and revelatory, this is an entertaining exploration of spectator sports’ intrinsic place in culture and how sport imitates life – and life imitates sport.
Night Games: Sex, Power and a Journey into the Dark Heart of Sport by Anna Krien (Yellow Jersey Press)
Sex, celebrity and power come together in a critically lauded, true-life courtroom drama centering on a rape case in the world of top-level sport.
“The Pies beat the Saints and the city of Melbourne was still cloaked in black and white crepe paper when the rumour of a pack rape by celebrating footballers began to surface. By morning, the head of the sexual crimes squad confirmed to journalists that they were preparing to question two players… And so, as police were confiscating bed sheets from a townhouse in South Melbourne, the trial by media began.
“What does a young footballer do to cut loose? At night, some play what they think of as pranks, or games. Night games with women. Sometimes these involve consensual sex, but sometimes they don’t, and sometimes they fall into a grey area.
In Night Games, Anna Krien follows the trial of a young footballer. Fearlessly and without prejudice, she shines a light into the darkest recesses of sports culture.
Played in London: Charting the Heritage of a City at Play by Simon Inglis (English Heritage)
From its first century Roman amphitheatre to the 21st century Olympic Stadium at Stratford, London has always been a city of spectacles and sporting fever.
In the 12th century crowds would gather at Smithfield to watch horse racing and ball games. In Tudor times they flocked to the tiltyards of Whitehall and Westminster to enjoy jousting, while in the 17th century the Stuarts were keen exponents of a game with the familiar name of Pall Mall. From more recent times Wembley, Wimbledon, Twickenham, Lord’s and the Oval are known around the world.
As the first city to have hosted three Olympic Games, London has also led the way in the development of athletics, boxing and gymnastics and, in the 20th century, of greyhound and speedway racing, and even of darts, once a fairground favourite, now contested in front of massive crowds at one of the capital’s latest coliseums, the O2 Arena at Greenwich.
Profusely illustrated with detailed maps and in-depth research, Played in London is the most ambitious offering yet from the acclaimed Played in Britain series. Capital sport guaranteed.
Proud: My Autobiography by Gareth Thomas (Ebury Press)
Gareth Thomas had it all. He was a national hero, a sporting icon. He was a leader of men, captain of Wales and the British Lions. To him, rugby was an expression of cultural identity, a sacred code. It was no mere ball game. It gave him everything, except the freedom to be himself.
This is the story of a man with a secret that was slowly killing him. Something that might devastate not only his own life but the lives of his wife, family, friends and teammates. The only place where he could find any refuge from the pain and guilt of the lie he was living was on the pitch, playing the sport he loved. But all his success didn’t make the strain of hiding who he really was go away. His fear that telling the truth about his sexuality would lose him everything he loved almost sent him over the edge.
The deceit ended when Gareth became the world’s most prominent athlete to come out as a gay man. His gesture has strengthened strangers, and given him a fresh perspective. Gareth’s inspiring and moving story transcends the world of sport to tell a universal truth about feeling like an outsider, and facing up to who you really are.
Run or Die by Kilian Jornet (Viking)
“This man can run 100 miles. Up and down mountains. Without stopping. After skipping breakfast. Meet Kilian Jornet, the world’s greatest ultra-runner”. (The Times).
At 18 months he went on his first hike. At 3, he climbed his first mountain. At 10, he entered his first mountain race. At 26, he plans to run up Everest – without an oxygen mask. Kilian Jornet has conquered some of the toughest physical tests on the planet. He has run up and down Mt. Kilimanjaro faster than any other human being, and struck down world records in every challenge that has been proposed – all before the age of 25.
Dominating ultramarathons and races at altitude, he has redefined what is possible in running, astonishing competitors with his near-superhuman fitness and ability. In Run or Die Kilian shares his passion, inviting readers into a fascinating world rich with the beauty of rugged trails and mountain vistas, the pulse-pounding drama of racing, and an intense love for sport and the landscapes that surround him.
In turns inspiring, insightful, candid, and deeply personal, this is a book written from the heart of the world’s greatest endurance runner, for whom life presents one simple choice: Run. Or die. This is the next must-have read for those who enjoyed the endurance books Born to Run by Christopher McDougall and Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes.