Book Review: Jarrod Black – Chasing Pack: A football novel by Texi Smith

This is the fourth book from Texi Smith featuring his character, Jarrod Black, following on from Introducing Jarrod Black (book one), Jarrod Black – Hospital Pass (book two) and Jarrod Black – Guilty Party (book three) as well as his book about Jarrod’s sister, Anna Black – this girl can play.


Chasing Pack finds Jarrod about to start a new season with Darlington after clinching a Play-off win and promotion to League One, with the plotline of the betting syndicate and its chief Yannick Lefevre continuing from Guilty Party. However, as with any good writer, the author provides enough snippets of background information and character introductions for a new reader to pick-up this book in isolation.

As detailed in previous reviews, Jarrod Black and his adventures on the pitch are very much in the Roy of the Rovers vein and in Chasing Pack the author adds a James Bond-esque twist as Jarrod gets the opportunity to play action hero Harlowe Croft. This takes the setting of the majority of the book back to Australia from England and the chance for Jarrod to play in his homeland.

As with the bulk of the series, the book is made up of short sharp chapters (in this case 81), providing readers with quick-fire, fast paced action, in easy to digest bursts. As ever, Smith continues to display his knowledge of the game, this time focusing on the A-League in Australia, mixing fact and fiction to create an authentic feel to the game action and the life of a club and its players.

Interestingly in this book, Jarrod appears to be a tougher and perhaps more flirty character than in previous stories, with his language seemingly more ‘industrial’, perhaps reflecting his move into the movie world and the Harlowe Croft character.

Texi Smith has a winning formula with this series of books and Chasing Pack is as accessible and an enjoyable romp as the other Jarrod Black titles. Where will the next adventure take readers?

(Publisher: Popcorn Press. December 2022. Paperback: 302 pages)


Buy the book here: Chasing Pack

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Sometimes, after a night match, once the crowds and players have gone and the floodlights snap off, they come out once more: swaying crowds on the terraces looking on expectantly, silently applauding at long-gone players in oversized shirts and shorts, passing and running, chasing the ball across the pitch. People, for whom it meant just as much as it does to us today. They dissolve back into darkness. Then the nightwatchman starts on his rounds.

The nightwatchman (or woman) guards not just the football ground but also the soul of the club that is at the heart of the town and has done so for a century or more. They preserve and tell the stories that make the club more than just a football team on the road to nowhere: stories of deaths and births, of tragedy and joy echoing down the years – the ghosts of the past that will never leave this sacred place. Charlie Truckle’s tenure is coming to an end – what will happen to the Town’s legacy then?

(Publisher: 1889 Books. October 2023. Paperback: 216 pages)


Buy the book here: The Ghosts of Inchmery Road

Book Review: The Great Football Conspiracy: A comedy thriller novel by Jonathan Last

On 18 April 2021 the football world went into meltdown when 12 clubs (AC Milan, Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Juventus, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Real Madrid) announced the creation of a European Super League (ESL). There was a universal outcry from FIFA and UEFA, clubs, governments, the media and fans, who saw what the ESL for what it was, a closed shop for those invited, who perceived themselves as the ‘biggest’ clubs, motivated not by the interests of the global game but by greed. The opposition was so vociferous that within three days, only Barcelona, Juventus and Real Madrid remained still in support of the project. What it showed was that there was a widespread belief that the ESL went against the integrity of the game, and that fans still had a part in making their views know in affecting decisions.

You may well be thinking what has got to do with Jonathan Last’s book, The Great Football Conspiracy? Well the premise of this, sub-titled, A comedy thriller novel, is centred around a plot that looks to change the game and its principles forever – sound familiar! The books synopsis details that it is ‘The Da Vinci Code’ meets ‘Fever Pitch’, no small claim indeed, given Dan Brown’s thriller has sold over 80 million copies worldwide and Nick Hornby’s seminal book on Arsenal has sold over a million copies in the UK alone and spawned two films.

In reality, where this book has similarities to The Da Vinci Code is that the central characters in both novels try to solve a number of clues as they race around various locations. For the cities of Europe in Dan Brown’s book, read a number of London football stadiums including Chelsea, Fulham, QPR and Wembley. Last obviously knows his venues as his descriptions of these grounds will be familiar to those fans who call them home. Another similarity between the two is also in respect of the characters and trying to work out as a reader which can be trusted as the ‘good guys’.

The links to Hornby’s Fever Pitch are less obvious, given it is biographical rather than fiction. However, Last does display throughout The Great Football Conspiracy an understanding and knowledge of the game, its history and what it is to be a fan.

Yes there is humour within the book and yes it has the feeling of a thriller, but at the heart of it is a message about the importance of fans and their part in the traditions of the game. The ESL project has shown that there is and perhaps always be a threat to football, but it would be good to think that as The Great Football Conspiracy shows there will always be custodians of the game, whether administrators or fans, who will uphold the integrity of what is and should always be, The People’s Game.

(Independently Published. November 202. Paperback 297pages)



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Interview with Warren Dudley, author of Sir Unwin Pugh, From Hull to Camp Nou.

Warren Dudley is an award-winning screenwriter and author from the UK, who has spent all his life living in Seaford, East Sussex, and the surrounding areas. He studied at Tideway School in Newhaven before embarking on a career in print and design.

After a brief dalliance with music in the 1990s with his band steBson, Warren turned to writing and making a small budget movie called Lived with Rick Roberts in the early 2000s. After several more self-made films projects, he got his big break when the opportunity to adapt Dave Roberts’ football memoir The Bromley Boys was handed to him by friend and producer TJ Herbert in 2012. The movie went on to have a successful UK and US cinema run and has garnered critical acclaim. In 2018 he worked with Blair Witch Project director Eduardo Sanchez on a pilot for Sky TV.

In November 2020 he released his first football novel, Sir Unwin Pugh: From Hull to Camp Nou following his debut horror novel in July 2020, Baby Blue: An American horror story. 

Footballbookreviews (FBR): What is your first football memory?

Warren Dudley (WD): My first game was a 4-1 win for Brighton over Manchester City in around 1981 I think (Editors Note: 03 October 1981 – League Division One: Brighton beat City 4-1 at the Goldstone Ground). My first very strong football memory is being 3-0 down at half-time in the 1983 FA Cup Final Replay against Manchester United. I sat in my bedroom aged ten and burst into tears…that’s when it all started.

FBR: You are a Brighton fan, how did this come about, and have you weaved them or their rivals into the Sir Unwin Pugh storyline?

WD: My Dad and Grandad were both big Albion fans so it was inevitable I would be too I guess. It’s been a long and varied 35 years of going to games come rain or shine. Ranging from the fight to keep The Goldstone, away games at Gillingham, the move to the Withdean athletics ground and then on to The Amex. Being in the Premier League now is a very odd, and not always a great experience…the journey was much more fun than the destination. As for our rivals Crystal Palace, there is one chapter dedicated to them in the book. It’s all done with love though!

FBR: How did you get into writing?

WD: I started ‘filmmaking’ about 15 years ago just making little, short-films and ideas. This progressed into writing longer scripts and culminated in me writing a football mock-doc TV pilot called Newhaven Port in 2005-ish. It was on that set where I met TJ Herbert. He went on to become a movie producer and offered me the chance to adapt Dave Roberts fantastic book The Bromley Boys – that was my big break. Since then I have attempted to make writing my living. It’s incredibly tough and I am lucky to have a very patient wife.

FBR: You have previously written a book, “Baby Blue: An American horror story” and now this football related story. How did you come to make the transition between two different genres?

WD: When I look back on my writing ‘career’ it appears I have written something scary and then immediately followed it up with a football palate cleanser. I love both genres but find it hard to keep doing just the one. The horror/thriller stuff is often more commercially viable but not nearly as much fun.

FBR: What was the inspiration for writing the Sir Unwin Pugh book?

WD: I have become quite good mates with Dave Roberts, since I adapted his book for screen. We are always batting ideas backwards and forwards and when I mentioned this he didn’t think it was a terrible idea. I had a look around on Amazon and it didn’t seem to be a very well-trodden path (there could of course be a good reason for that!) For me it’s just a lovely opportunity to write something that gives me a blank canvas to come up with a series of silly footballing anecdotes – something I am always very happy to do…

FBR: Is Sir Unwin Pugh based on anyone?

WD: Not really – he’s one of those slightly posh Alf Ramsay types. Saying that, I was often picturing Paul Whitehouse as Rowley Birkin QC from The Fast Show while writing.

FBR: What are the major differences between screenwriting and writing novels?

WD: It’s been one of the great pleasures of switching from screenwriting to writing books. When you write for the screen you are always thinking about budget and being harassed by producers to keep things tight. When writing a book, if you want to send your main character to manage a team in Borneo you can do just that without worrying about who’s gonna pay for the trip!

FBR: Thank you Warren for your time! All the best with the book.

For more information about Warren, please visit his website

You can also follow Sir Unwin Pugh on Facebook