November 5, 2014, Posted by Tom in Books, Books, Culture, Football, Sport

CROSSING THE LINE by Luis Suarez – an exclusive extract

Luis Suarez’s autobiography, Crossing the Line: My Story, is out now, and with Barcelona in the same Champions League group as Ajax, we thought it was the perfect time to share this extract from Luis as he discusses his time with the Dutch club…

Through everything that happened in my three-and-a-half years at the club the fans at Ajax never turned their back on me. As captain, the standard-bearer of the club, I had let them down with the biting incident. Yet, they had also seen that I played to win to the extent that I felt this tremendous responsibility to transmit that desire to win to the rest of my team-mates. There was no excuse for what I had done, but they appreciated that I always gave everything and many felt that I had instilled that winning mentality into the team. They liked me precisely because I was not what they were used to. I had supporters writing to me to congratulate me on how I had played as their captain and I will always carry that in my heart. They sang my name from my first game, and they even sang it after I had left the club. When Ajax were drawn to play Manchester United in a Europa League game in February 2012, I had just come back from my eight-game ban at Liverpool. Around 4,000 Ajax supporters sang ‘There’s only one Luis Suárez’ throughout the game at Old Trafford. When people told me about it I was overwhelmed; it’s something I will never forget.

Another reason why the club will always be special to me is because of the way they treated my family. We loved living in Amsterdam. It was a big change from Groningen; it is a much more international city, and one that had a lot of tourists and much more going on. The club advised us that we should be careful when we were out and about – the sort of warning locals might give any young wide-eyed tourists in a big city – but we had a wonderful time. Sofi and I picked out a loft apartment in a converted warehouse on Amsterdam’s IJ lake waterfront and, as busy capital cities go, it was a relaxing place to live. Above all, that was because of the attitude of the people. For a player it’s perfect because you are at a top European club but away from the pitch there is maximum respect for your personal space. No one bothers you for pictures or autographs if they see that you’re with your family. It couldn’t have been better.

The Amsterdam Arena is probably the best stadium I have played in. It has all the benefits of a modern stadium, but because of the supporters you can feel the history of the club when you play there. It makes me very proud to think that if those supporters were asked today about the top players that have played for the club they would include my name. In fact, just having been part of Dutch football is incredibly special to me. If my Uruguayan roots taught me to never stop fighting on the pitch, then my Dutch education taught me to never stop thinking.

Crossing the Line is out now in hardback and ebook. Get your copy here.

And you can read more from Luis about his time at Liverpool in this Guardian extract.

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November 4, 2014, Posted by Tom in Books

Blending fact and fiction: David Gibbins on wreck diving

David Gibbins, author of Pyramid and the Jack Howard series, reports on how his novels are shaped by real life research…

Novels are meant to be about fiction, not fact, right? That’s a question constantly in my mind as I draw inspiration from my real-life adventures as an explorer and archaeologist. It was there a few weeks ago when I was diving off the coast of south-west England, searching the sands for shipwrecks that might have been revealed in the huge winter storms earlier this year. Like most explorers I spend a lot of my off-time planning my next expedition, my next dive, imagining what I might find – you could call it daydreaming, except that it fills my sleep as well – and when the first smudge appeared ahead of me in the haze I wondered whether it was like a desert mirage, a trick of the mind after so long spent searching and finding nothing.

But then the smudge became reality and I was swimming over a shipwreck more than a century old, reaching down and touching sections of wooden planking that had been perfectly preserved beneath metres of sand. I rounded the stern and saw the ship’s huge propeller, an awesome sight in the gloom, standing proud of the seabed where it had been entombed for so long. My air was running low when I came across the copper box you can see me examining in the photograph here, trapped beneath other wreckage. As I stared at it I found my thoughts crossing the blurred boundary into fiction again, imagining that the box was golden, not copper, and wondering what my protagonist Jack Howard would do now, what clues he might find inside. When I’m underwater, hemmed in by low visibility and always striving to see what lies beyond, the world of the imagination is never far off, and I’m always close to being transported into the fictional world I inhabit as I write my novels.

Gibbins wreck blog Nov 2014 first photo

That overlap with reality is also part of the present-day context of my novels, whether it be warlords using antiquities to ‘oil’ drugs and arms transactions, shady religious organisations suppressing discoveries that might undermine their power, Nazis concealing looted treasures, or those for whom any history outside their own agenda is anathema. That last scenario is played out in my new novel Pyramid, set during a fictional takeover in Egypt by extremists intent on eradicating all evidence of antiquity. To fuel my imagination I’ve looked no further than recent reality – the desecration of museums in Iraq and Afghanistan, the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas by the Taliban, calls by extremists in Egypt to destroy the pyramids. As I put the finishing touches on my novel, news reports from Iraq and Syria gave a horrifying plausibility to the scenes I’d imagined following an extremist takeover, with the fate of archaeological treasures under such a regime scarcely imaginable.

Gibbins wreck blog Nov 2014 second photo
My novels always involve a lot of research, and when I finish one I tend to think that I’ve written my last word on the subject. I felt this at the end of my fourth novel, The Tiger Warrior, set partly during a real-life jungle rebellion in southern India in 1879 in which an ancestor of mine fought. For years I’d been fascinated by the artefacts he brought back, and then I exhaustively researched the rebellion in the India Office Collections of the British Library, thinking there was nothing more I could get out of it. But I was wrong! This year I was contacted by the descendants of two other officers who had served in the campaign. That spurred me to do more research into the biographies of the other men involved, to tie up a few loose ends, and I made an astonishing discovery – one of them had ditched his military career to become, of all things, an undersea shipwreck explorer! He’d become obsessed with finding a lost bullion wreck, devising ever-more fabulous contraptions to excavate on the seabed, refusing to give up even after decades of search. He was just like a Victorian character I’d created in my novel Pyramid, diving for a fantastic treasure in the depths of the Nile. For me, fact and fiction are forever intertwined!

The two photos show David diving on the wreck he describes in this blog in September of this year.

To see a video by David of a dive on that wreck, see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGRsrdnAg5Q

And visit his website at www.davidgibbins.com and his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/DavidGibbinsAuthor

PYRAMID
PYRAMID by David Gibbins is available from Thursday 6th November!

November 1, 2014, Posted by Tom in Books

Movember Special: the best moustaches in literature

It’s that time of year when men everywhere feel that it’s acceptable to grow a moustache. Well, it is for a good cause.

One thing’s for certain though: no matter how hard you try to cultivate some impressive upper lip fuzz, you won’t look as good as this lot. Here’s our pick of the best ‘taches from the literary world. Some are fictional, some are real, all are fantastic.

Six of the finest moustaches in literature

watson copyDr Watson
Physician, assistant to Sherlock Holmes, good egg

orwellGeorge Orwell
Novelist, political writer, tea drinker, British icon

hookCaptain Hook
Pirate captain, enemy of Peter Pan, scared of crocodiles

shakeyShakespeare
Poet, playwright, inventor of words

poirotHercule Poirot
Private detective, short round Belgian, often wears hats

twainMark Twain
Author, lecturer, ‘father of American literature’, sometimes topless

 

Good luck to everyone taking part in Movember. You’re gonna need it.

October 29, 2014, Posted by Tom in Books

Paul Fraser Collard cover reveal – The Devil’s Assassin

We loved The Scarlet Thief, the debut novel from Paul Fraser Collard, in which we were introduced to the heroic and rather cool Jack Lark. His adventures continued in the The Maharajah’s General, and now he’s back in The Devil’s Assassin.

Set in India in 1857, it sees Jack’s heroic but fraudulent past uncovered by the Devil – Major Ballard, the army’s intelligence officer. Ballard is gathering a web of information to defend the British Empire, and he needs a man like Jack on his side. With secrets crucial to the campaign’s success leaking into their enemies’ hands, Ballard brings Jack to the battlefield to end a spy’s deceit. But who is the traitor?

The Devil’s Assassin is published in hardback and ebook in January, and we’re delighted to be able to reveal the rather snazzy cover right here, right now…

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ALSO COMING SOON: Rogue, Recruit and Redcoat, a series of ebook novellas featuring Jack Lark and set before the events of the The Scarlet Thief. Rogue is out this December, with the next two adventures following in 2015. Keep your eyes peeled for more info, but here are the covers to whet your appetite.

series

Follow author Paul Fraser Collard on Twitter: @pfcollard

And visit his website: www.paulfrasercollard.com

October 28, 2014, Posted by Richard in Books, Culture, Exhibitions, Uncategorized

Sherlock Holmes: ‘The Man Who Never Lived and Will Never Die’ Exhibition Review

We’d checked out the place where he gets his bacon butty in the morning, and now we were off to the Museum of London to see a thrilling exhibition that leaves no stone unturned in the quest to show us the real Sherlock Holmes.

The joy of ‘Sherlock Holmes: The Man who Never Lived and Never Died’ is in the perfect balance of showing us the fictional Holmes and the real world that he inhabited. For example, one of the most fascinating exhibits – the piece of paper where Arthur Conan Doyle first sketched out an idea for ‘Mr Sherrinford Holmes’ and his sidekick ‘Ormond Sacker’ – sits neatly near a wonderful Turner painting of the The Reichenbach Falls.

The early Doyle details and early artefacts sit artfully alongside Benedict Cumberbatch’s now iconic trench coat and scarf. Along the way there is a glut of typewriters, telephones and contemporary maps that add a wonderful richness.

Inevitably, given that the lads at Guinness have Sherlock down as the most played character in screen history, there are video clips galore. It’s certainly interesting to see the difference in how, say, Christopher Lee tackled the character as opposed to Mr Cumberbatch, but to some extent it did show up how the many actors who’ve played Dr Watson over the years have really only been forced to articulate wide-eyed, jowel-quivering incredulity (‘By Jove, Holmes. How could you possibly have known I’d had Findus Crispy Pancakes for dinner?’ Etc…).

This is an expertly collated exhibition that will appeal to die-hard Doyle fans and curious Cumberbatchians alike. One word of advice – take fifteen minutes or so to read The Adventure of the Dancing Men, one of Doyle’s 56 short Sherlock stories, which curls round the wall outside the exhibition. It’s a reminder of what a genius Doyle really was, and why Sherlock is such an enduring character.

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Sherlock Holmes: The Man Who Never Lived and Will Never Die is at the Museum of London until 12 April 2015
Book tickets here

IMAGES: Benedict Cumberbatch in Sherlock © Mr Pics / Shutterstock.com,
Baker Street station © littlesam / Shutterstock.com

October 24, 2014, Posted by Richard in Books

Charles_HRH’s Guide To Great Britishness: ‘Nelson, Harold, and a bloody big scarf’

In this extract from the Charles_HRH’s Guide to Great Britishness (from the wildly popular twitter parody), his royal highness talks us through Britain’s big fat history of war…

The history of Great Britain is filled with triumphs and disasters and nearly as many wars as America has had in the last ten years. This being said, Great Britain should never be considered to be a warmongering country, as it’s always someone else’s fault. As a general rule, if it happened prior to 1945 and it involved killing people, you can bet your Crown Jewels that Britain was involved.

The following  contains scenes of violence, which some readers may find disturbing…

Norman Conquest

Great Britain has been invaded more times than one’s had bacon sandwiches. Fortunately for us, every invader mysteriously became English when they took over, thus leaving England undefeated. This was particularly lucky in the year 1066, when the bloody French won their first (and last) war against England.

The Battle of Hastings is the only blemish on an otherwise spotless record of military supremacy. Many historians have described it as the worst defeat ever for the English, although they clearly haven’t witnessed us playing a football match in the last forty years. The odd thing is that one isn’t sure what Hastings was like in 1066, but it’s certainly not worth fighting over now, that’s for sure.

The invading Norman army were led by William the Conqueror, although of course he hadn’t conquered anything then, so he was actually called William the Ugly Bastard. By middle age, he had become William the Fat Bastard.

During a quiet lull in battle, our ruler King Harold II was playing a quick game of I-spy, but failed to guess the ‘something beginning with A’ was actually a bloody sharp arrow fired by the Norman army that hit him directly in the eye. That’ll teach him for leaving his glasses on the bedside table. He was severely wounded and, despite people telling him not to, he made it worse by frantically rubbing it, and died on the battlefield. He really should’ve gone to Specsavers.

Scenes from this battle are famously depicted on a 41/2-mile long scarf, knitted by sexually frustrated French art students five years after the battle took place, and is on display in Bayeux, France.

 

Battle of Trafalgar

Horatio Nelson was Great Britain’s greatest naval hero who beat the French, Spanish and Danish fleets and still had enough energy to grapple with his mistress, Emma Hamilton,on his days off.

The French and Spanish prepared an invasion fleet of 33 ships, with 14,000 crew. During their voyage they met face to face with the greatest defence to ever exist: the British weather.

Nelson is commemorated in London’s Trafalgar Square with Nelson’s Column, which stands magnificently at 46 metres in the centre of the square. Originally, the four lions standing guard on each corner were real, right up to 1973, when they were stolen by Sir David Attenborough and replaced by statues. Upon the column’s unveiling, in a fit of bravado and excitement, Nelson climbed up the column as part of a stunt. Unfortunately, with no clear way down, there he stayed.

 

Battle of Waterloo

The Battle of Waterloo is considered to be the greatest victory over the French, closely followed by Sir Bradley Wiggins’s triumph in the Tour de France in 2012.

On 18 June 1815, a little after 2 p.m., the Duke of Wellington was just polishing off his ploughman’s lunch, when Napoleon Bonaparte, a short French emperor who actually stopped growing at the age of nine, launched a surprise attack on Hougoumont Farm.

Wellington, who had intended to ride down to the farm and purchase some milk for his Earl Grey, was enraged to the point of using bad language (i.e. French). The French clearly failed to learn a valuable and important lesson the first time, ten years earlier at the Battle of Trafalgar: never come between an Englishman and his afternoon cup of tea.

On a boggy marshland outside of Waterloo, the Duke of Wellington chose his position carefully – a steep ridge that allowed his troops to peer down on the beautiful French women in the enemy camp. Somehow, this inspired the English to win the battle.

Maybe if Napoleon had chosen to rule a country with a higher success rate in winning things, he might have actually been victorious. Trust a Frenchman.

 

Second World War

Two World Wars, one World Cup, doo dah.

The Second World War was started due to Adolf Hitler’s wish for world domination; something that One Direction are obsessed with today.

Hitler was clearly a nutcase from the very start, supported only by the forced German nation and the Daily Mail. Great Britain was on to him from the very beginning and made it clear that we wouldn’t stand for his evil empire building and silly moustache. France signed up to the war thinking it was a six-year wine-tasting class, totally unaware of the dangers ahead. Going to war without that lot is like going to war without your accordion.

Despite the best efforts of the von Trapp family, Britain declared war against Germany in 1939, but the French army, finally twigging what was going on, conveniently forgot how to fire their weapons. They bravely retreated to fight another day, except they also forgot to fight another day and were subsequently captured. It has to be said though that French engineers were innovators in building armoured vehicles. Each French tank was equipped with five gears; four to reverse out of battle and one going forward in case they were attacked from the rear.

Without help from anyone else, Great Britain was forced to single-handedly stop the advance of the Nazis by using one of the most technologically advanced defensive features of that period: the English Channel. And try as they might, the Germans were unable to break Londoners’ spirits during the Blitz. Good job they didn’t have a snow machine.

The war reached a climactic peak on 6 June 1944, when Allied forces landed on the shores of Normandy. This event, known as D-Day, marked the only time in history that the British got to the beach before the Germans.

Eventually, with some reluctant help from the USA and Russia, Great Britain brought the Third Reich to its knees and liberated France just as they finished learning the words to the German national anthem. Not that they’ve ever said thanks properly.

In April 1945, Hitler made his only sensible decision of the war and committed suicide in his bunker. Germany surrendered and took little comfort in the famous Winston Churchill speech where he told them it wasn’t the winning, but the taking part that counted. Despite turning up late, the United States tried claiming victory, but due to the time difference between London and Washington, Great Britain had already claimed this several hours earlier.

final cover

 Charles_HRH’s Guide to Great Britishness is out now!

Follow his royal highness here: twitter.com/charles_hrh

October 20, 2014, Posted by Tom in Books, Culture, Sport

5 of the best books about running

Get your trainers on, tape up your nipples and run down to your local bookshop: here’s our pick of five of the best books about running.

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Our pick of some of the best books about running…

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami (published by Vintage): Think Murakami is a legendary writer? You’re correct, he is. But did you know he’s also a bit of hero when it comes to running as well? This is his story of running over twenty-five marathons AND an ultramarathon, detailing the physical and mental torment involved in taking on the 62-mile course. Even if you’ve actually got no interest at all in running, this is compelling stuff.

Born to Run by Christoper McDougall (published by Profile Books): Or, to give it its full, catchy title: Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. Here, the author is trying to find members of the reclusive Tarahmara tribe in Mexico, famous for their ability to run up to 200 miles at a time. Whilst barefoot. Often after getting absolutely leathered the night before. One of the main things that McDougall discovers is the potential power and sense of freedom that can come with ditching your running shoes and going barefoot. Read this and you might just want to do the same (unless you live somewhere like Hackney).

Running Like a Girl by Alexandra Heminsley (published by Windmill Books): NOT just one for girls, this is a book that proves that anyone can run if they put their mind to it. Charting the author’s journey from a disastrous first ever run through to running five marathons, this is honest, funny and inspirational stuff.

The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb (published by Willow): The true story of three men in the 1950s as they tried to achieve the ‘Holy Grail’ of running: the four-minute mile. Eventually it was good old Roger Bannister who cracked it and wrote his name into the history books forever, and Bascomb details both how he did it, and how his achievement changed the running landscape forever.

Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes (published by Tarcher): Although this isn’t a perfect book, and Karnazes can sometimes come across as a bit arrogant, it’s definitely entertaining, and offers some real insight into the ultramarathon experience. If nothing else, you might enjoy the description of a man eating an entire pizza whilst running, which is quite impressive when you think about it.

 All images © the respective publishers

October 7, 2014, Posted by Tom in Books, Books, Football, Sport

The genius of Football Cliches

If you follow us on Twitter (curse you if you don’t, fools), you’ll have noticed that quite often on a Saturday afternoon we can be found retweeting @FootballCliches, Adam Hurrey’s glorious analysis of the often absurd language, mannerisms, opinions and iconography that define the beautiful game. Crackers such as these…


Well, this 24 karat Twitter gold has now been made into an equally superb book, the perfectly titled Football Cliches. Deconstructing the ridiculous things that pundits, players, managers and fans say, it’s an absolutely screamer. We loved it so much that we placed it right in the top corner of our rundown of the best sport books of 2014. Here are a few little snippets from this shiny, yellowy, beautiful beast…

The Dictionary

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The Disciplinary Tightrope

Footballers’ perpetual sense of injustice means that almost any type of foul is subject to appeal. Here are just a few:

The cynical foul: Cynical is used by co-commentators to describe any foul that looks even slightly deliberate. For the perpetrator, there is a hands-up acceptance of his fate, like entering a guilty plea in court. Despite claiming the mitigation of it being his first foul in the match (there’s that forefinger again), a yellow card is likely to be forthcoming. If it halts a promising opposition counterattack, the co-commentator will use his playing experience to confirm that the booked player will quite happily take that.

Welcome to the Premier League: The standard English top-flight welcome pack for new foreign signings consists of three items: a pair of oversized headphones, a designer washbag and an agricultural challenge from an old-fashioned centre-half.

Six of one, half a dozen of the other: A coming-together or wrestling match that lacks a clear instigator may be referred to as six of one (this particular cliché is established enough to be left incomplete) or, if the co-commentator is sufficiently leftfield, six and two threes. Further TV replays will confirm that the two players were, indeed, both at it.

5 of the 101 Ways to Score a Goal’

  • 4. Thundered: Suitable for describing shots travelling above the ground, which either go in or strike against the woodwork.
  • 14. Thumped: If a thumping takes place from close-range and/or thanks to a goalkeeping howler, it may well be gleefully undertaken. As with a hammering, this act of blunt trauma can also be applied to an entire scoreline, should the margin of victory be sufficiently comprehensive.
  • 42. Stroked: Like passing it in, this requires the sort of composure traditionally found on the Continent. Stroking the ball home is also an option from the penalty spot.
  • 66. Trickled: That heartbreaking way that a ball crosses the line after a defensive mix-up between a hapless goalkeeper and one of his Keystone Cops defenders.
  • 97. Went for power over placement: Related to, if anything, hitting the ball almost too well. Opting for power over placement often results in merely stinging the palms of the goalkeeper.

The Alan Hansen Defending Continuum

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That’s just a brief look at some of the ruddy great stuff packed into Football Cliches by Adam Hurrey, published Thursday 9th October. Order your own copy here. You won’t regret it (unless you’re Andy Townsend, in which case you might feel a little… disheartened).

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