By Randall Northam
As regular readers of the SJA website will know, Iâ€™m not exactly in favour of most sports book awards. But at SportsBooks, when John Shawcroft’s Local Heroes, the story of the only Derbyshire team to win the county championship, was placed on the shortlist for the Cricket Society book of the year, we got quite excited.
Unlike the other sports book awards Iâ€™ve come across, the Cricket Society tells publishers which books are entered. They do not rely on publishers entering their own books. The societyâ€™s members put books forward if they like them.
So when the Association of Cricket Statisticians said of Local Heroes, â€œThis is a very good cricket book… enthralling narrative… recommendedâ€, we thought we might be in with a chance of the shortlist, although the year before weâ€™d not made it with Colin Blythe – Lament for a Legend, even though Frank Keating in the Guardian said that Christoper Scobie’s book was â€œnear perfectâ€.
My publishing house seems to thrive on dead cricketers. Shawcroft’s book, for instance, is about the Derbyshire side of 1936. What was remarkable was that most of its members were drawn from the Derbyshire coalfields, and the book details the characters of this unique team.
Shawcroft’s labour of love is on this shortlist along with Cricketâ€™s burning passion: Ivo Bligh and the story of the Ashes by Scyld Berry and Rupert Peploe (Methuen), Cricket all my life by Gerald Howat (Methuen, again), Keith Miller by Roland Perry (Aurum Press) and Ken Taylor – Drawn to sport, by Ken Taylor and Stephen Chalke (Fairfield Books).
I havenâ€™t yet read any of the other four books on the shortlist but itâ€™s obvious Local Heroes faces formidable competition.
Stephen Chalke at Fairfield always publishes cricket books of the highest calibre. The Keith Miller book was shortlisted for best cricket book on the British Sports Book awards (another set of awards where publishers nominate) along with Scyld Berryâ€™s Ashes book, though neither of them won (indeed, one book which I did not like actually won the biography award).
Still, John and I will be at the Royal Overseas League in London on April 17 with our fingers crossed, knowing that we are among the top books of the year entirely on merit judged by a group of people who know the game best.
For 20 years, John was the editor of the Ripley and Heanor News and he still works part-time as a journalist, so on the day of the awards, he’ll have to take the day off. All I’ll have to give up is a couple of parties at the London Book Fair.