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Pies and Prejudice: In search of the North
Pies and Prejudice: In search of the North
by Stuart Maconie
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A book of two halves, 9 Oct 2008
For the most part, this book is entertaining and witty. Maconie's enthusiam for his subject is contagious and the stuff you are learning is genuinely interesting. Then he stops writing about Lancashire and starts on Yorkshire.

I can't help but think that this book would have been better if Maconie had stuck to what he knows, ie: the west side of the Pennines. Quite how, for example, he can make various claims about 'professional Yorkshiremen' (a dying breed anyway) and deny the existence of the Lancastrian equivalent is an unforgivable oversight that kind of gives away where Maconie's loyalties lie. They are not called 'professional Lancastrians' as such, but how many 'professional Scousers' and 'professional Mancs' could we name? Is Stuart Maconie's beloved Peter Kay not a great example of a professional Lancastrian? There's nothing wrong with that, and while such matters don't ruin the book, there is a real difference in Pies and Prejudice between the writing about Cheshire and Lancashire and the writing about the rest of 'the North'.

That, and a few errors that half-decent any sub would have picked up, aside, the book largely does what it sets out to do: entertain. Southerners that aren't as touchy as this reviewer will probably enjoy it all the more too.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 1, 2013 2:09 PM GMT

Football Dynamo: Modern Russia and the People's Game
Football Dynamo: Modern Russia and the People's Game
by Marc Bennetts
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.33

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not great, 23 Sep 2008
Football Dynamo gives Russia the treatment that various writers have given various countries, from David Winner's journey through Dutch football (Brilliant Orange) to Alex Belios's Futebol on Brazil. Writer Bennett holds his own in such exhalted company, but only just. There is obviously many a fascinating story to tell, but the overall effect isn't quite as entertaining as some of its predecessors, particularly Brilliant Orange. This may be because Bennett falls into the trap of being too close to his subject. His love of all things Russian means that even when he's being critical of the corrupt, turbulent way football is run in his adopted country, it can often be like a father scalding a child rather than a juicy exposé of the more seemly members of Russia's football hierarchy.

That said, there is still more than enough in here to keep the average football fan engaged. Russian football is on the up, and anyone wishing to know their Spartaks from their Dynamos could do worse to start with this book. While you don't come away feeling that you understand the ins and outs of one of the most complicated countries in the world, you're bound to know a damn sight more than when you started, and Bennett's style of writing means that the book crackles along at a decent pace. There are probably bigger and better stories lurking behind the Iron Curtain, but for now Dynamo Football will so nicely.

Behind the Shades: The Autobiography
Behind the Shades: The Autobiography
by Duncan Fletcher
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.08

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Better than expected, 17 Sep 2008
OK, first I should admit that I am a big fan of Duncan Fletcher the coach. He took English cricket from its lowest low and brought success unseen since the days of Trueman and Statham. I also admired Fletcher the man. He stood up to the Aussies and the media and wasn't afraid to make himself unpopular as long as he had the support of his team.

However, when the book was serialised in the English press, it seemed that Fletcher was, through this autobiography, acting in a way that was out of character from the man that had been running the English cricket team so skillfully. Players that had sweated blood for him - Hoggard, for example - seemed to be receiving untold criticism. Fletcher was always big on loyalty, but here he seemed to be being disloyal.

Despite this, I figured it must be worth a read, and on the whole, it is. Fletcher's analysing of the game, the way he looks for bite in his players (hence the preference of Jones to Read) and the way he can see how players use angles and the 'low crouch' (which helped him spot the otherwise-ignored potential of Vaughan, Trescothick and Strauss) are great to read if you're a cricket fan, but probably dull if you're not. On the whole, the book is for the cricket purist; if you want a cricket autobiography that entertains beyond the world of cricket then seek out the more feted books of Simon Hughes, Nasser Hussain and Mike Brearley.

The book isn't as full of vitriol as the media clippings suggest. With the curious exception of Matthew Hoggard, Fletcher is loyal to those that had been loyal to him. The book does its fair share of score settling. Geoffrey Boycott, Henry Blofeld, Ian Botham and a handful of others get it with both barrels. But as they'd spent eight years or so making a living out of criticising Fletcher, he has his right of reply.

On the whole, the press it received on its release didn't do Behind the Shades justice. Fletcher is refreshingly honest throughout the autobiography, and for anyone that has followed English cricket over the past decade or so I would recommend this book. Love him or hate him, Fletcher transformed English cricket, and his approach to cricket - gone through in detail here - shows why English sport could do with more of his ilk.

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