Book Review: I Am Sam by James Durose-Rayner

I Am Sam is the opening book of a trilogy by James Durose-Rayner. This opening instalment introduces the reader to a central character with a love of Arsenal FC, the looks of David Beckham and a personal life more convoluted than Arsene Wenger’s transfer policy.

The book operates in both a fictional and factual context, with the main characters, the fictional creations, set against the factual backdrop of Arsenal during the 2013/14 season and the career of onetime Arsenal player Jon Sammels.

Durose-Rayner brings these together using the premise of a sports-media company that the central character and business partner Sooty own and run. Charged with creating a documentary for the 2014 World Cup, their research leads them to take up another thread, that of Jon Sammels (Sammy) who was at Highbury from 1963 until 1971.

For the most part the story is told through the central character and the first person narrative, although this in interspersed with chapters from Eddie Mardell, a journalist who becomes involved in the Sammy documentary.

In terms of the timeline, it is dominated by a chronological path, however, this is broken up by flashbacks to Sammy’s period at the Gunners and the football world of his time. This enables the reader to become familiar with the England team at the 1970 World Cup, the Arsenal side that won the Fairs Cup the same year and the Double winning side of 1971 and its subsequent breakup, including the departure of Sammels to Leicester City.

Running parallel to the football plotline is that of the central character and his private life, which can only be described as complicated – and even that would be an understatement. Durose-Rayner uses both blokeish language and humour to convey and navigate the chaotic nature of these relationships, but still is also able to present some emotional depth to the man in the middle of it all. Indeed the world that is created has some wonderfully constructed and totally believable cameos such as the café owner Fosis and his regulars.

Undoubtedly the book has a great tempo which allied with the two strong plotlines makes it both engaging and absorbing and subsequently difficult to put down. A great addition to the football fiction genre.


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Posted February 22, 2016 by Editor in category "Reviews

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