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September & October 11 Book Reviews

graeme_swann  The Breaks are Off - My Autobiography - Graeme Swann


As a great cricket fan and admirer of what Swann has brought to the team, I anticipated his autobiography would be good. He's a funny chap (ha ha rather than odd...!) and I expected his book to show this sense of humour. Swann is always a candid and thoughtful interviewee. He doesn't hide behind management rhetoric and as such his comments are usually astute.

It's a witty book, full of Swann's often inappropriately timed jokes. The anecdote about misjudging Rod Marsh and greeting him warmly with the C word is both cringeworthy and very funny.

He details being punched, allegedly without provocation, by Darren Gough whilst urinating, which is amusing and puzzling, as Gough apparently never offered an explanation.

I wanted to know more details about the England lifestyle. He doesn't always elaborate on points made, and takes great pains to tell the reader that the current England squad are all great mates etc but the less casual reader will want more in depth analysis.

For the cricket lover there is a lot of detail about matches, most notably the Ashes win in Australia.

It also provides a good insight into Swann's character, which seems somewhat Marmite-esque. You either love him or....you know the rest. Perhaps when he finally retires from cricket (hopefully not for some time) he will revise this book and include a little more in the juicy detail department.

Overall an entertaining read for cricket fans.



  Hucks: My Autobiography by Rick Waghorn and Joe Edwards


Hucks "Through Adversity and great heights" MY Autobiography, but Rick Waghorn is the author and its edited by Joe Edwards.


Autobiography- An account of someone's life, written by that person..........oops



  Dennis Tueart by Dennis Tueart


Have not been reading this book for long and already I am loving it. Dennis was my hero at Maine Road when he came to us in 1974 and I was over-joyed when he came back to us after leaving the New York Cosmos. He was another of those great players who showed great commitment to the club and blue shirt and gave his all to us. He will always be remembered for the '76 Wembley goal, but for me, all of his goals were great. I remember running to Maine Road for his return.


I have also watched the 1973 FA Cup Final where Dennis played for Sunderland and he was brilliant then. I can see now why City went for him. What a little cracker!!


By Judy W



  Freak Out! My Life with Frank Zappa by Pauline Butcher


The story of a prim and proper part-time model/typist who Frank whisked from Twickenham to Hollywood to be his secretary, for reasons that aren't entirely clear. Contains lots of inside information about the true state of the grubby log cabin and Gail & Frank's strange relationship, Pamela Zarubica's role as FZ's social agent, Pauline's brief affair with Cal Schenkel, and Ian Underwood's creation of the `clonemeister' post. It's interesting that the man who spent his final years glued to CNN never seemed to read a book or newspaper, listen to the radio or watch TV during Pauline's four year `life' with him - yet he still had a fully formed opinion about the state of US politics and thought he stood a realistic chance of becoming President. Indeed, one of the stated reasons for employing Pauline was to help him with a book he had been commissioned to write - a political perspective. It never happened, of course. Pauline's time with the Zappas was very eventful, with an assassination attempt, constant work-related squabbles with Gail (who she says "has three speeds: slow, very slow, and stop"), and general in-house strife. But she also had many good times, getting to see moments of pure brilliance as well as witness some of Frank's more fanciful projects (the GTOs, Wild Man Fischer, etc.). Like Zarubica, Pauline loved Frank but was not in love with him - though she admits that had he not been married, things might have been different between the pair (which could've applied to Underwood too), and the book does detail Frank's rebuffed advances for `nookie'. She clearly did not see him as the God-like genius everyone else around him at the time seemed to, and was not terribly enamoured with much of his musical output. Certainly she was very different from the others Frank surrounded himself with, which seems to be another reason he liked having Pauline around. She originally wanted to call the book Reflected Glory, My Time With Frank Zappa, and this is an honest, accurate - and very well written - account of her thoughts and feelings at the time, based as it is on her diaries and letters home. Entertaining and occasionally laugh-out loud funny, too. With books like this - factual ones, covering in detail specific eras, tours or pieces of equipment - Mr Clayson will have much useful raw material to help him write the definitive official biography. Whether that's what we'll get remains to be seen - so, meantime, this fills in some of the blanks between 1968 and 1972 very nicely.



  Gangsta Granny by David Walliams


Great book for my 12 year old Grandson, he thinks his Nan is the best! A good stocking filler. I viewed David Williams on Jonathon Ross show when he read a short preview, and decided there & then to purchase Gansta Granny as soon as it came out. When he's read it I think I might borrow it......great author.


However be warned, it does have a sad ending. It might have been wiser to change the end to Granny moving into an Old Folks home where she spends her days tunnelling out just like in The Great Escape, using plastic spoons from the dining hall that she steals every breakfast time!?!



  Glorious: My World, Football and Me - Paul Gascoigne


Even people who don't know football know who 'Gazza' is. The man born as Paul John Gascoigne to a working-class family in the North-East has found headlines on the front pages almost as often as the back pages throughout his life, thanks in great part to his more than colourful lifestyle. But it is for his time as a footballer of the very highest order that Gazza's name will forever live in sporting history. During a career that spanned more than ten different clubs, among them Newcastle United, Tottenham, Lazio, Rangers, Middlesbrough and Everton, and which included countless unforgettable England performances, Gazza established himself as one of the sport's all-time greats: a master of skill, flair and invention like none that his country had produced before nor perhaps ever will again.


Told in Gazza's own unique voice and fully illustrated with hundreds of photos from the moments that he feels defined his career, Glorious: My World, Football and Me is a celebration, offering an unrivalled insight into the mind of this greatest of footballers.



  The Good, the Mad and the Ugly: The Andy Morrison Story by Andy Morrison


An amazing story of a man who is brutally honest about everything that has happened in his career and his life. There isn't much written about the other side to Morrison, which I am certain must be there, as he talks about being a good husband and a good father. His football career was blighted by injury and alcoholism and the level of violence in the story is just off the scale. How he has never been to prison is just down to good luck and circumstance. Some of his decision making makes you worry about him - playing Sunday League football in Winsford, never mind following a car full of players back to their pub because they had been winding him up. I couldn't put it down and think it's fascinating how Morrison was just below the pay bracket that would have made him a wealthy footballer - always just one contract away from his team mates etc... and yet he did literally drag Man City up from Division two and was under contract when they were back in the premiership. I loved him as a player and find the honesty of his story eye opening.



  In My Defence the Autobiography - Dominic Matteo


The Liverpool and Leeds United legend lifts the lid on life behind the scenes and reveals the highs and lows of Premier League football. Dominic Matteo has played alongside some of English football's biggest names. He has also played at some of Europe's finest stadia, while he remains one of the few internationals to have appeared for both England and Scotland. Here, Matteo charts the ups and downs of a career that began when he was spotted as a 10-year-old playing for his local boys' team by then Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish. He went on to spend 15 years at Anfield, six of which were in the first-team where his team-mates included Ian Rush, Robbie Fowler, Steven Gerrard, Jamie Redknapp, Jamie Carragher, David James and Michael Owen. Matteo then moved to Leeds United, a club which then seemed to be on the cusp of great things as David O'Leary's swashbuckling young side cut a swathe through the cream of Europe. Eighteen months after Matteo had been signed, Leeds had risen to the top of the Premier League only for the dream to quickly turn sour. Matteo was at Elland Road throughout the rise and fall that culminated in relegation, so has a unique insight into one of the most spectacular collapses in English football. He was the club captain as Leeds slid out of the Premier League and has strong views on just where it all went so badly wrong. Matteo went on to join Blackburn Rovers and then Stoke City before a serious back injury, which still troubles him today, brought a premature end to his career.



  I, Partridge: We Need To Talk About Alan by Alan Partridge


This is quite honestly the funniest book I have ever read. You'd be forgiven for thinking that an entire book written in character from one of these isles' and comedy history's most successful, developed and believable creations could fall short of expectations on many levels, but it doesn't. Not one facet of the superbly titled "I Partridge: We Need To Talk About Alan" (even the TITLE is 100% character-accurate) didn't live up to my expectations.


Coogan, Iannucci and newcomers the brothers Gibbons have created a very complete history for Partridge that effortlessly (and again, believably) takes in aspects of his storied past from the events of I'm Alan Partridge right back to anecdotes recounted in the lesser-seen (or heard) radio version of Knowing Me, Knowing You (whose referenced Steven McCombe is given a further verbal thrashing by our vengeful Alan). If you've felt that some of Coogan's ventures with the character have seen disjointed (how, precisely, did he get from I'm... to the excellent Mid Morning Matters, for example, and what's become of his supporting cast?) this book should serve to tie things together, though don't misread me- this is not a loosely assembled retread of common ground. There's not a page that doesn't boast a fresh tale, an exaggerated recollection or a declaration of excellence in some mundane field. Iannucci and Coogan's belief in the character (who they attest in the DVD extras for one episode dresses the way he does because it's the way Roger Moore started to in his later Bond appearances, and in another discuss - in detail - what numbers they think Alan would find funny) is what makes this rich, rich fictional history such a compelling and comical read. If you've ever wanted to know more about his relationships with Michael, Carol, Lynn or Sonja or precisely how someone so socially inept landed a gig presenting a primetime chatshow, you'll not be left wanting.


I, Partridge contains absolutely everything I would have wanted from it (Partridgeisms as disparate as using abbreviations only to have to explain them and thereby diminishing their usefulness or boasting about reading books aimed at 12-year-olds at age 9, to name but two of many) but adds a whole new layer of idiosyncrasy (the use of footnotes herein, for example, is particularly inspired) and is bolstered by Alan's unique (if clearly derivative) and acutely observed sense of prose, which is so commonly featured that to single out ay one example seems pointless.


The book's appeal is wide-ranging enough to accommodate those like myself who've devoured every audio commentary and Youtube-sourced guest appearance they can get their hands on in addition to relative newcomers or even those with no frame of reference for the character at all, simply because it's so well written and so fully realised that it functions as a great read no matter how you engage with it. You don't have to have heard Alan's recollections of youth in his televised outings to find his here-recited tales of being prone to nosebleeds or awkward first forays into sexual exploration amusing. It's a great comedy read in addition to being a great celebration of a character worth celebrating.


I'm not exaggerating when I say this book has made me laugh out loud more than any book I've ever read (in one sitting, no less), nor am I exaggerating when I say I'll probably re-read and re-read and analyse this tome to death much as I have Partridge's previous exposures. It is, as much as a book written by a fictional character could ever be, absolutely perfect.



  Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath by Tony Iommi


In Britain we love to throw around the terms "legend" and "national treasure" with regard to all kinds of popular public figures. But whether or not you think Tony Iommi deserves to be described as either, how many public figures in Britain today can you think of who a) are the subject of a legend and b) have actually given us something which is, in it's way, a national treasure?


The legend I'm talking about the true and shocking story of when he lost some of his fingertips in a workplace accident. The national treasure is heavy metal, a form of music derided for so long but now embraced and respected. As you'd expect all this is covered in detail, and in fact the book is crammed full of stories about his life as a top rock musician. But it's also interesting to read about his family background and his upbringing. He's also honest about some of the difficulties he's faced in his life as well as his career: it's not subtitled "my journey through heaven and hell" just as a pun.


There isn't a trace of self pity in it however. This is a musician who got where he was through hard work and inspiration and has got himself back to the top by continuing to work hard. Overall he comes across as a committed, talented and above all likeable bloke. It's been great to fsee Iommi finally getting his due over the last few years, and I think this book will enhance his reputation further. If Ozzy's the Prince of Darkness, then Tony's the King of the Riff, and this is the next best thing to spending a few hours with him in the pub.



  The Life of Lee by Lee Evans


What a unique story from a truly self-made man. This book had me laughing and crying in equal measures! With so many unforgettable characters from Lee's childhood, along with his unusual upbringing following his dad around the 1970s entertainment circuit, it's easy to see how Lee has found plenty of material for his comedy.


I feel like I know him a lot better now!


Fans of Lee Evans will love this but it's also a brilliant memoir for anyone who loves a bitter sweet true life story.



  Mother, Brother, Lover: Selected Lyrics by Jarvis Cocker


A great item for both hardcore and more casual fans. Contains notes to the songs (ranging from a couple of lines to a few paragraphs) explaining the lyrical references in songs, most of which I found quite amusing, plus an interesting essay on lyric writing as an intro.


A must have for any Pulp or Jarvis fan but also of interest to lovers of modern poetry. Jarvis Cocker is amazing with words and it's fantastic to actually have them written down.



  Paradise And Beyond: My Autobiography by Chris Sutton


Chris Sutton enjoyed a hugely successful career at some of Britain's biggest clubs. One of the greatest strikers of modern times, he starred beside and played for some of the biggest names in world football - Larsson, Shearer, Dalglish, Vialli. Now, in Paradise and Beyond, the Celtic, Blackburn and Norwich legend opens his heart on his incredible life story and lifts the lid on the battles he fought on and off the pitch in a controversial and successful fifteen-year career. From a YTS trainee at Norwich to the dugout at Lincoln, Chris has experienced the game from minnow to millionaire. Now for the first time he reveals his early success at Norwich and how he nearly lost out on his record-breaking £5million move to Blackburn after spending a night behind bars. And he tells the truth about his relationship with England superstar Shearer at Ewood Park. Chris enjoyed the most successful spell of his career at Parkhead and he relives the glory and success under Martin O'Neill. But he tells exactly why he holds Gordon Strachan responsible for him having to leave Celtic in 2006. Chris lifts the lid on why his dream move to Chelsea turned sour and his bust-up with boss Vialli on the morning of an FA Cup Final. And for the first time Chris unveils the truth behind why he chose to snub Glenn Hoddle's England and his regrets at turning down the chance of playing for his country. This candid autobiography also has exclusive no-holds-barred interviews from the managers he played under, from O'Neill to Dalglish to Vialli. Paranoid. Sublime. Manic. Influential. Opinionated. Intelligent. All adjectives used by them to sum up Sutton. And off the pitch, he opens up on the traumatic experience of watching his baby son James fighting for his life and reveals the trauma of his own cancer scare. Controversy followed him throughout his career and continues to do so throughout this book.


I have read pretty much every football bio out there, many are dull if we are honest... Really enjoyed this and he talks with honesty about team mates and opponents... And it is very clear that he enjoyed smashing Rangers 6-2....very clear....



  Pepe - My Autobiography - Pepe Reina


Pepe speaks from the heart. The Glove is one of the big characters in the Anfield dressing room and his love for Liverpool, the city and the fans comes through strong in the book. I'd read a lot of extracts in the papers but there is so much more he reveals. I couldn't put it down. I won't spoil it, but there is an hilarious story about one of the fancy dress parties with the boys! Nice foreword from David Villa as well...


There are quiet a few obvious reasons Pepe Reina's book should be of an interest to a Liverpool fan, Spain supporter or football afficianodo. Here are another two- its written very well and comes out in a very friendly and sincere way. Obviously a devoted Reds fan would find important insights about the slump in 2009-2010, departure of the likes of Xabi Alonso and th infamous transfer of Fernando Torres and the resurgence under King Kenny. But also, Reina's observations about the game, top Spanish and Liverpool players and his humble and cordial style leave a lasting impression.



  The Race by Clive Cussler


I'm a fan of Clive Cussler's earlier woks but felt let down by THE RACE in that there wasn't the usual depth to the characters and plot. It follows the `the wonderful men (and woman) and their flying machines' in a race for a $50'000 prize and valuable publicity across America. I love historical and period fiction and was at least rewarded in THE RACE by very detailed description of early aviation, but was again disappointed with the emotionless way in which it was portrayed. Whereas nothing has been spared in the description of the 1910 era, the characters' motivations are seriously flawed, the excitement of early flight lost and the story very predictable. Isaac Bell seems to have lost some of his edge as well and rather than keeping me guessing and being one step ahead of the game, it was the other way round.


I've given it 3 stars just for the accuracy of detail and research that must have gone into it, but if you are looking for a challenging thriller, with characters you want to read about, then I'd look somewhere else!