Acclaimed novelist Richard Beard journeys to the heart and soul of rugby - from the dreaded English rugger-bugger to the playing fields of France - asking if the sport is still the man-maker its Victorian founders intended it to be. There is Rugby Union: the fast, compelling, TV-friendly combat sport in which sponsored gladiators are sold on their ability to crash into each other at top speed, and sometimes even to avoid each other and score. And then there's rugger. Rugger was once the serious version of rugby, more than a mere game, a fierce contact-sport developed in Victorian public schools to forge manly and unshakeable character. For a hundred years boys played rugger and made themselves into men. They also drank too much beer and took their trousers down in public. The dark-side of rugger the man-maker is the recidivist, the dreaded English rugger-bugger. Richard Beard sets out to examine this contradiction by revisiting his seven former rugby clubs in four different countries. He tries to reconcile contrasting views of rugby and rugger with the diversity of characters he meets, from Booker Prize winning authors to former England hookers. He explores rugby's rivalry with soccer, its influence on the first World War, its surprising attraction for non-conformists, and it's unlikely role in international organised crime. And all the while he's trying to get himself a game. This is Beard's quest into his rugby-playing past, where he's lived the sport in many of its varied forms. By the end of his wayward journey, he almost qualifies to judge whether rugger has achieved what the Victorians always intended, and made him a better man.
Richard Beard is the author of five novels, most recently Lazarus is Dead, described by the Scotland Sunday Herald as 'surprising, spellbinding, witty and utterly original.'
X20, his first novel, is about a man giving up smoking: every time he wants a cigarette, he writes something down instead. Damascus is a love-story set on a single day, 1 November 1993, and all the nouns in the novel come from that day's edition of The Times newspaper. The Cartoonist is a story set in and around Disneyland Paris, in which libel and copyright restrictions prevent the characters from ever entering the Disneyland theme-park.
Dry Bones, published by Secker and Warburg, is a 'rollercoaster philosophical journey of Stoppard-like brilliance.' (Glasgow Herald).
Beard is also the author of three works of non-fiction, Muddied Oafs, The Soul of Rugby (Yellow Jersey 2003), Manly Pursuits, Beating the Australians (Yellow Jersey 2006), and Becoming Drusilla (Harvill Secker 2008).
Richard Beard was a games teacher at the Dragon School in Oxford before becoming private secretary to Mathilda, Duchess of Argyll. He moved to Paris to work at the National Library while continuing his studies with the Open University. In 1994, he enrolled on Malcolm Bradbury's Creative Writing MA at the University of East Anglia, followed by two years in Geneva, then a house in the Mendip Hills owned by the Royal Society of Literature, and on to Japan in 2003 as Visiting Professor at the University of Tokyo.
In 2006 he returned to Europe and lived in Strasbourg, and is now back in the UK as Director of the National Academy of Writing.