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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 11-3 to Willstrop
One of the great things about professional squash is its accessibility. Even from my own lowly club squash position I have met and interacted with many of the people in the book. Squash currently has none of the standoffishness which big money would bring to the sport, and it removes the barriers between the professionals and the mere mortals. This makes a book like...
Published on 26 May 2012 by Amsterdamned

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3.0 out of 5 stars Average
As a squash fan was looking forward to reading this. Was left a little bit disappointed. Hard to tell whether I am being objective about the book or whether I didn't warm to James Willstrop. It isnt a difficult read so don't let me put you off reading it.
Published 19 months ago by m jackson


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 11-3 to Willstrop, 26 May 2012
This review is from: Shot and a Ghost: A Year in the Brutal World of Professional Squash (Paperback)
One of the great things about professional squash is its accessibility. Even from my own lowly club squash position I have met and interacted with many of the people in the book. Squash currently has none of the standoffishness which big money would bring to the sport, and it removes the barriers between the professionals and the mere mortals. This makes a book like this much more interesting for the average player than a book, for example, about a celebrity football player would for a club football player.

Willstrop writes openly and sincerely about the life of a professional squash player, and he doesn't write at all badly. It's been a while since I was this engrossed in a book. That said, if I were to be overly critical, I have a couple of niggles. When you're slumped on the sofa with a packet of crisps, the in-depth descriptions of the various physical jerks and shot-by-shot replays of major matches are a little tiring and a tadette tedious. I would also have appreciated more mention and understanding of the rôle played by the referees - the players think they have it tough! They don't have to put up with the petulent hissy-fits that players of every level who have never read the rules put the referees through! But that's understandable - I'm a referee ...

In all honesty I can't imagine that people who have not played squash would enjoy this book - most of it would not mean much to them, from the title onwards. But if you play squash chances are you'll enjoy this. Good job James!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In-depth and no holds barred, 23 Feb 2012
This is a fantastic snap-shot account of the life of Willstrop on maybe his most erratic season on tour, I highly recommend reading this if you're interested in reading about all the aspects of the sport, from the day-to-day slog of training to playing in the World Open finals.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rare and engrossing insight, 31 Jan 2012
This biography/diary offers a rare and insightful look at life on and off the court as well as shedding some light on the emotions before, during and after a match. The fact that James is still very much at the top of his games means that you can connect what you read to what you may have just seen! There are many areas covered including the trials and tribulations of keeping fit & healthy (makes me wince just reading about it) as well as having to face up to your nemesis! A cracking and fascinating read Squash fan or not.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for any squash or true sports fan., 8 April 2012
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This review is from: Shot and a Ghost: A Year in the Brutal World of Professional Squash (Paperback)
What a read and insight into the professional game at the highest level. Despite being a pretty handy player in my youth and growing up with some of the names mentioned in this book it really is a gripping and refreshing read. The honesty and true feelings laid bare are a credit to a top English sportsman whi is still plying his trade. Not only do you feel his joy, pain and sorrow you are willing him on by the end of the book and only disappointed that it's finished. Buy it, learn about and support someone who should be a well known and respected national hero. Simple.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughts of a great champion in the squash world, 5 April 2012
By 
C. Danks (Solihull England) - See all my reviews
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As a squash player myself and seen James play many times in tournaments around the world, this was a unique opportunity to understand what he goes through, at each event, the physical and mental preparation, the heavy demands on the body, the injuries, but what I felt was very touching was the disappointments in the losses and more importantly the sadness of the man after losing his mother to cancer, something which I am also familiar with.
What you are left with is a stunning athlete, a decent human being, a good man intelligent and very likable character.
I loved the book so much it is one I will read over and over again to remind me that life is tough and you do the best you can whatever life throws at you.
Thank you James I am inspired by you.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally..., 26 Mar 2012
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As a big squash fan I have been waiting for a well written autobiog for a long time. This was a great read, very similar to a year in the centre by BoD, but much more engrossing. Willstrop's writing is accessible and the timeline is well structured through flashbacks to key time points in his life.
I couldn't help wanting a bit more on tactics against players and the development of his unique playing style, but I suppose it's not a coaching manual.
Most enjoyable was reading about those matches that I had watched on psalive, especially Canary W '10, and the world open final, where you get a shocking insight into how his mind and body were working at the time of play.
The "brutal" description is bang on, mentally and physically. Really hope this gains more publicity for a fantastic sport! Sequel please!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read, 31 Jan 2013
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A year in the Brutal life of a squash player, No holding back here and a real insight into the life of an elite athlete, the ups and downs, warts and all. I was surprised in places how frank and honest James has been with his own state of mind and thoughts and was thoroughly gripped. I would highly recommend.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Honest recollection of a year in squash, 6 Sep 2012
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Felt like a really honest and open account of a year as a top squash professional. No thought or feeling is left out. My only gripe would be that it doesn't cover 2011 - 2012 when Willstrop was winning plenty of titles... talk about unlucky timing on when to write the book! Well worth a read for any squash fan.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Aching body tortured mind, 5 Feb 2012
James Willstrop is one of those infuriating characters who, from afar, appears to cruise through life looking assured, confident, talented and ridiculously nice. Not my type at all, to be honest.
A bit like those robotic American collegiate golfers who all look, speak and play the same way. All sound bites and sugar. Yawn, yawn...bring me John Daly.
If I'm honest, that view of JW is based on the square route of bugger all. Never met the man, unlikely to do so. Seen him on the telly, watched him play on SquashTV, read a bit about him. That's enough. Great player, very pleasant...move on.
Enter Shot and a Ghost. Silly title, what's that all about? Well, actually, it's about quite a lot.
It's about a remarkable young man so complex, multi-layered and fragile of mind that a quick re-write of my take on him might be in order.
Turns out he is everything I admire and enjoy about sports stars, and people in general.
Bland, he ain't. Complex, interesting and insecure he most certainly is. As for honesty...this guy makes Abe Lincoln appear like a cheap car salesman from South London.
He is a driven man, no doubting that. The book will take you inside the mind of an incredibly gifted squash player who prepares and trains as hard and meticulously as any athlete on earth. Footballers fit? Do me a favour.
You are not left guessing what Willstrop thinks of his rivals. He certainly doesn't hide behind half-truths and PR speak when assessing World No.1 and arch foe Nick Matthew. There's respect, but delivered with gritty honesty laced with plenty of attitude.
His relationship with Malcolm Willstrop, father, coach, mentor and hero is revealing and engrossing. Love laced with passion, fear, driving ambition and discipline makes for fascinating reading and invites the amateur psychiatrist in me to play out numerous scenarios for the future.
The books takes the form of a year-long diary and appears to leave little or indeed anything from its microscope. It drops in the odd potential headline-grabbing tit-bit too. 'I nearly quit last year,' he reveals.
Willstrop also invites us into his private life (insomnia, pills, drink, love life, fragility of mind, burning desire for success and heart-rending moments during his mother's battle and ultimate loss to cancer).
It is an emotional roller coaster for the reader, and clearly for Willstrop himself.
I'm guessing he wouldn't appreciate or acknowledge any feelings of sympathy or empathy towards him. He's an outwardly stoic and tough Yorkshireman, you see. A man who respects the thoughts and judgement of few people.
That said, you emerge from Shot and Ghost enlightened, moved and ultimately hopeful that the guy finds a semblance of inner peace and fulfilment. The odd world title wouldn't go amiss either.
You get the feeling that writing the book has been a hugely revealing and cathartic experience for Willstrop himself. His rivals have certainly been given a remarkable insight into his foibles, fears and failings.
Whether that proves to be a sporting own goal, time will tell.
One suspects, however, Willstrop will have learned an awful lot about himself...along with the rest of us.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read, 31 Jan 2012
Have thoroughly enjoyed reading James' diary. Great insight into the life of a professional athlete. Felt the pain and the grief just reading it, might have had to use a tissue here and there :). Congratulations on World #1, you thoroughly deserve it.
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