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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 22 November 2011
These are the words Freddie Trueman said to his foreman when sacked as a bricklayer. They were also the words he said to me after queuing at his car for his autograph as a 12 year old at Edgbaston in 1963 after he had taken 7-44 to defeat the mighty West Indies.This reflects Trueman. My boyhood hero. A great fast bowler. A legend. Loved by the public. A pain to the establishment and batsmen. Chris Waters's authorised biography plunges into these waters, often tempered and troubled. Trueman was a thorn in the side of the orthodox cricket institution. Spoke his mind, swore, bounced and hit the opposition as bowlers of his talent do today. Disliked snobbery and hypocrisy. As the middle of seven children, he moved quickly out of the pit, the predominant employment and social dominance of the time. Well-explained by his remaining family by the author. Played soccer for Lincoln City during his National Service. Wisden's Young cricketer of the year in 1952. Fell foul again in Barbados when he allegedly asked the High Commissioner to 'pass the salt Gunga Din', almost certainly untrue. Len Hutton was captain of that Caribbean tour (1953-4) and Fred never played with him again. He was sanctioned and only played three tests in the next three years. Rebuked for wearing brylcream (and rubbing on the ball) and told to remove wristbands that distracted the batsmen. Acccused of being a beer man,again part of the brash 'macho' image. He actually preferred a gin and tonic,in moderation. Laughable today. In 1964 he was the first man to take 300 test wickets. When asked if someone would do it again Fred replied "he'll be bloody tired." When Bob Willis did surpass the total he somewhat sarcastically said "and tell Fred I'm not tired".

There were never any doubts about his greatness as a bowler, whether genuinely quick and aggressive, nor later when he bowled fast-medium with beguiling swing. His experiences with the games' authorities would be better dealt with now, I'm sure, and would have left him less bitter towards the Yorkshire and England committee men.(Recent cricketers have behaved far more extravagantly even with the press on their tails).
He was a hundred cap player.Probably a 600 wicket man if not denied playing for his country. A potential captain of Yorkshire in the Close mould and Illingworth stamp (both moved on for similar reasons). Well- represented in the book.

He moved to radio test-match special.After-dinner speaker (men only usually, until later). Forthright, controversial, provocative. Veteran pipe-smoker who succumbed to lung cancer. OBE. Should have been knighted. His partner Brian Statham, Lancashire, was a perfect foil for Fred but was never second fiddle.
A wonderful account of 'Fiery Fred' by Chris Waters that is highly readable and informative. Highly recommended.
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on 8 September 2015
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on 13 November 2011
This is an enjoyable read. While it recycles extensively from John Arlott's 70's biography, it adds a lot of new material from interviews with family and team mates.

It has a cracking start and a very moving finish. The first chapter is the reunion of Trueman, Geoff Boycott, Brian Close and Ray Illingworth shortly before Trueman's death. They are almost a parody of themselves as they put the modern world to rights - modern cricketers can't bowl, the Yorkshire team of the 60s would have beaten the 2005-era Australians (?), reverse swing was invented by Yorkshiremen in the 1940s (??!) and Ant and Dec aren't a patch on Eric and Ernie (...fair enough).

It ends with a truly touching account of Fred's funeral that gives a feel of how badly everyone was feeling the loss of such a vibrant character. "Goodbye, my friend" - that really brought a lump to my throat.

In between it is efficent and even-handed, and sheds new light on the familiar incidents from Trueman's career.
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on 21 August 2012
As a kid,I can remember watching Trueman bowling on tv and being enthralled by the whole earthy glamour of his performance-the flapping shirt,unruly hair and the improbable athletic ease that characterised his run up.He made me want to be a fast bowler and,even though I never played for anything other than my grammar school house team,I've always loved bowling whenever I've had the chance,probably influenced by those early visions of the archetypal fast bowler.

The book that first taught me something about cricket was Arlott's "Fred" which is crammed with its author's poetic perception but obviously cannot deal with much of Trueman's later life and eschews a lot of the very early history of the man.I also remember it as being less frank about the off field behaviour of its subject than this book but I haven't looked at it for twenty years or so.

Had I noticed that this was "The Authorised Biography",I might have baulked at buying it on the assumption that it would lean towards the hagiographic but I would have been wrong because the tone here is generally pretty forthright on Fred's failings while preserving a rightfully admiring assessment of his abilities as a bowler.The author deals honestly with his subject's tendency to bombast and boorishness,especially during his later TMS years and makes a good fist of analysing what actually happened during Trueman's first tour to the West Indies on which a great deal of his notoriety and popularity stemmed.He also presents,without commentary,a few of the more outlandish claims made by Fred about his ancestry,amongst other things,which allow the reader to come to their own conclusions about the amount of trust they are able to place in Fred's adherence to truth.

Nothing much new is revealed about the shabby treatment that the young Trueman received from Yorkshire and England but the captains' and managers' reports from various overseas tours were new to me and often did less credit to their authors than to Trueman.I'm sure that he was a handful and I'm sure that he tried the patience of his team mates but one would have thought that those in the business of winning test matches would have persevered in their efforts to ease him into what was to him an entirely new world rather more energetically than they did.In ignoring so obvious a talent for so long rather than attempting to rub off what were,admittedly,some spectacular rough edges,the cricket establishment did little to dispel Fred's claims of class prejudice.As much as he had a duty to learn how to behave,his seniors had a duty to teach him.

Waters,I think, is right in identifying Trueman with the "angry young men" although John Brain would have been nearer the mark than John Osborne.Trueman did represent to me and many others the spirit of working class assertiveness that ran through the fifties and sixties.I was on the back end of it but the pride that I took in the straight speaking,irrepressible energy of people like Trueman was shared by many around me in the South Yorkshire of my youth.To see him become the repository of crusty bar room conservatism of his later years was a sadness to those of us who saw him as an athletic embodiment of something entirely different in his playing days.

His settling in the Dales and his reluctance to acknowledge his roots were specifics that I could have guessed at but was unaware of.The comment about the willingness to "lick the boots" of Major and Clarke I found shocking and,I hope,even with a deep dislike for his politics,untrue.One can accept only so much sullying of even fallen heroes.

Overall,this is an intelligent and interesting assessment of of a gifted,flawed,complex man which celebrates his glories without hiding his faults.I read it in very few sessions and found it pretty compelling.As with many good books about sport,it manages to set its subject in an historical as well as a sporting context.Trueman would have had a very different career had he been born at a different time.That he came to prominence when deference was beginning to fade as a characteristic of British society added much to his status as a working class hero.It's ironic that he probably came to regret the changes to which he contributed.
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on 7 November 2011
I loved this book. I normally take some time to read any book but I literally could not put this down. From Fred's humble beginnings in Maltby to a poignant funeral in North Yorkshire Chris Waters paints a truly evocative picture.Especially fascinating is the insight into the Yorkshire club and Freds relationship with Hutton Boycott together with his first tour to India. Unreservedly recommended.
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on 14 June 2012
The bar is set extremely high when it comes to assessing cricket biographies of past immortals with recent books on Larwood and Hobbs particularly standing out.

Now they are joined in the pantheon by this accurate, beautifully researched and written warts and all study of Freddie Trueman.

For those too young to remember Fred, in his pomp between the mid 50s until 1963 was the self-proclaimed "finest fast bowler who ever drew breath for England" and if you read this book you will discover why his boast was not too far from the mark.

Packed with great stories and memories from his contempraries this is a book to savour slowly.

I always thought that John Arlott had written the definitive study on Trueman - he had done but this one is even better.
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on 30 January 2012
I'm 36 years old, so whilst I knew that he had been a great cricketer and a legend of the game I always considered Fiery Fred to be a miserable old codger. This wonderfully written book (hard to believe it's the author's first book) gives a very rounded, interesting and humorous account of Fred Trueman's life. In my opinion he (Fred Trueman, not the author) is an absolute Legend.
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on 8 January 2012
I'll say one thing about the Nottingham Evening Post - it has produced some terrific writers. First Duncan Hamilton makes a worthy contribution to cricket literature with a brilliant (a word I use wisely) biography of Harold Larwood, then along comes Chris Waters, now cricket correspondent of the Yorkshire Post, to produce one that is almost as good on the Yorkshire and England legend Fred Trueman.

"Fiery Fred" has spawned a cottage industry of books over the years, some supposedly by his own pen but ghost-written and others by authors who in many cases simply rehashed old tales, many of them apocryphal. Such is the problem for the author wanting to do something new, as most fans feel they know the subject already.

But do they? I'm reminded of Emmott Robinson of Yorkshire, who, like Trueman, became larger than life thanks to the anecdotes recounted by Neville Cardus over many articles and books. What did Robinson think of Cardus? "Ah've nivver met 'im" he said, to the disappointment of many, including me. Robinson's sage comments and dry wit were effectively the creation of a masterly, but ultimately only inventive writer, fact and fiction merging into one with the latter taking over like a cricketing Jekyll and Hyde.

Separating the fact from fiction is difficult, but Waters has done an outstanding job and, to his credit, presents the player warts and all. He was a man of contrasts, capable of the most earthy talk yet protective of his children if such language was used in their presence. He was a coal miner's son who became a Conservative supporter and latterly claimed to be the son of a "countryman", something at odds with the gruff northern working class persona that was cultivated by player and media alike. Through numerous interviews and comments Trueman can be seen as both a character and wit, as well as a boorish man; a player of brilliance yet with a perennial chip on his shoulder. Never mind that he was the first player to 300 Test wickets - if it wasn't for those so-and-sos in charge he'd have been the first to 400, maybe more.

He polarised the dressing room for sure. While most loved him as a player and valued his contributions, they were less sure of the man. He was appallingly treated by his county, but was hardly alone in this, as many left Yorkshire over the years through shocking man-management, more in keeping with the nineteenth century. He dabbled with the northern club circuit as an earthy comedian and made an ill-considered comeback for Derbyshire, when, as I remember too well, the spirit was willing but the flesh was sadly weak. Fred ended up on Test Match Special, where he could be fascinating and ascerbic one minute then frustrating the next, his regular "I don't know what's going on out there" somewhat at odds with the role of an expert paid to know just that.

If you didn't get Chris Waters book when it first came out and didn't find it in your stocking at Christmas, I would urge you to go into your local book shop and buy it, or get online and do so. If times are hard, get down to your local library and see if they can get it for you, because of the cricket autobiographies and biographies I have read in the past twelve months this is the best by some distance. Fred Trueman was one of the greatest fast bowlers of all time and deserved a "proper" biography. Chris Waters has undoubtedly delivered.

He has also set himself quite a challenge with this first book, as it will take some following. I look forward to reading his next one immensely.
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For many people born outside the broad acres Fred Trueman was the embodiment of the archetypal Yorkshireman - straight talking, pig-headed, self-satisfied, intolerant, boorish and forever seeming to carry whole host of chips on his shoulder. There can be no doubt that, at times, Fred could be all of these but this book reveals him to be a complex character, with much more to him than would meet the eye. We read, for example, that when he heard that Geoff Boycott, a man Trueman didn't particularly like and had not been on speaking terms with for some time, had cancer he immediately buried the hatchet and offered him as much support as possible.

Although widely recognised as England's greatest ever fast bowler and the first cricketer to take 300 test wickets, he was also one of the first cricketing `bad-boys', his rough and ready attitude constantly rubbing up the games hierarchy, which in those days almost exclusively former public schoolboys, the wrong way. Although regularly more sinned against than sinning his perceived unruly behaviour caused him not to be picked for many test matches, a fact that he grew to bitterly resent because he believed that it robbed him from taking a great many more test wickets.

As this book points out, in later life he lost a little face due to his attitude towards modern day cricket and the abilities of the men that play it, even losing his place in radio's Test Match Special commentary team because of it. Despite this, one thing is certain, and that is that he will never be forgotten, particularly in his beloved Yorkshire.

Because of his eventful career and his colourful personality, Fred Trueman has been the subject of more books than most, and because of this there is not that much in this book that I haven't seen before, but it is still a highly entertaining biography and a fine remembrance of a true sporting legend.
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on 31 December 2012
And that is coming from a Somerset supporter.

I've read hundreds of cricket books in my time and this is right up there with the best. The author captures brilliantly the complexities and apparent inconsistencies in Trueman's character. The way in which class issues are captured bring alive what cricket must have been like in the 50s and 60s. I've completely changed my view of Trueman as a consequence of this fine book.
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