Ooooo, matron… At the third time of trying, NORMAN GILLER has slipped in (geddit?) one of his Carry On jokes. How? Well, he’s now working day and night on a version of Carry On Writing
Have you ever taken on a silly writing challenge? I mean a really silly one, such as agreeing to write six sports books between now and Christmas? That’s what I have just agreed to do, so you can now officially call me stark, staring bonkers.
Let’s see… There are 140 days to go to Christmas, but the sixth book has to be delivered to the printer on December 12. So that means I have 127 days to write around 500,000 words, split between six 192-page books.
That’s an average output per day of around 4,000 words. I started the first book today, and have reached my target (12 pages laid out in Adobe inDesign ready for the printer) before taking a break to bore you with my thoughts (or words to that effect).
All the books are on a sports nostalgia theme, kicking off with Chopper’s Chelsea – Ron Harris, selecting the 50 greatest players at the Bridge from when he first joined the club in 1959.
In today’s sanitized, touch-me-and-I’ll-fall-over game, Ron – now 65, but who is sure to be at Wembley on Sunday to see his club in the “Community” Shield – would not get close to his club record 665 League appearances. He would spend most of his time serving suspensions.
For those of you who did not have the riveting experience of seeing Chopper play, he tackled with a force that would make Marc van Bommel seem about as fearsome as Andy Pandy.
In a career at Chelsea that lasted 21 years, how many times do you think he was ordered off? A dozen? Ten? Five?
The answer is just once, in an FA Cup tie at Brighton. Harris got involved in a tussle with Brighton forward Eddie Spearritt, and as he pushed him, Spearritt went down holding his face as if he had been punched. The referee directed Ron to an early bath. All the bones he had kicked, and here was Harris being sent off for a playground push.
A Brighton-supporting vicar, with a pitchside view, wrote to the Football Association telling them what he had witnessed, and Chopper was vindicated.
I must not give too much of my book material away, but one more quick Chopper story so that today’s young reporters know what they missed. He was once raked down the back of the leg by Man City striker Mike Summerbee, who whispered as he struck: “Fifteen-love …”
Twenty minutes later Chopper gave Summerbee the full weight of one of his scything tackles, then leant over him and said: “Fifteen fucking all …”
“Mike put his thumbs up while getting treatment,” recalled Ron, “and laughed like a drain.”
They bred them tough back then.
The other five books? Not saying, but they are four football and one boxing. They will all be limited editions and signed by the Golden Oldie stars with whom I will be writing.
IT IS ALL PART of a deal I have with Terry Baker, nostalgia sports’ top agent who runs the A1 Sporting Speakers company, manages the likes of Jimmy Greaves and Geoff Hurst and represents such major, old-time celebrities as Pele, the 1966 World Cup survivors and Henry Cooper, Ricky Hatton and Frank Bruno.
Together, we have come to the conclusion that the traditional publishing market for sports books has gone to pot. We will be selling our books online and at road shows. This, rather than being ripped off by 53 per cent of the retail price before you can get on to the shelves of the major bookstores.
As my faithful reader knows, I have a Golden Double book coming off the presses next week celebrating Tottenham’s historic League and Cup double triumph of 1960-61. It is introduced and signed by Spurs braveheart Dave Mackay.
Last week, my instant Print-on-Demand World Cup book came out to roaring indifference. It is selling like cold cakes. If I had gone down the traditional printing route, I would have been thousands out of pocket, instead of hundreds.
People continually ask what drives this 70-year-old crumbling ruin of a man who has (so far) survived the sort of bowel cancer that saw off my lovely old mate Bobby Moore. Well, one: I have an overdraft that could sink the Titanic; two: I have written 87 books to date and it would be nice to hit the ton before I kick the proverbial.
I am confident I can meet the six-books-before-Christmas target, particularly as I have my son, best friend and heir Michael working as my safety net and statistician. Don’t forget to bring up your children properly!
I talk about it all openly on here in the hope I can motivate young writers concerned about the shrinking newspaper world. There are few publishers now offering decent advances, so get thinking how you can not only write your book but, more important, sell it.
This is the second time I have taken on the challenge of writing six books in short time. I once wrote six Carry On novels in three months, and could be heard groaning to myself at the peak of the rush: “Infamy, infamy … they’ve all got it in for me …”
I shall leave the page.
Read previous Norman Giller columns by clicking here.