Grovelling apologies for my lack of blogs lately. I could throw myself on your mercy and beg forgiveness but if you know anything about me, you’d know it wouldn’t be sincere anyway so I won’t bother.
Suffice to say, I’ve been snowed under finishing off Wings of a Sparrow which is now scarily close to completion and looks awesome. I just hope you lot like it because as I always say, my readers are the most important people of all. Without you guys buying books, I don’t eat!
On which note, heartfelt thanks to everyone who has kept The Crew at number one for pretty much 9 straight months now.
I’m staggered and not a little humbled by this success as well as by the equally brilliant performance of Top Dog. As a consequence, as soon as Wings of a Sparrow hits the marketplace I’ll be starting work on the third book in the Billy Evans series.
I already have an idea for the story and trust me, it is an absolute cracker. And yes, there will of course be a huge twist at the end!
In fact I’m already excited at the prospect of getting to know Billy again. He really is a naughty boy! 🙂
As a writer who doesn’t exactly shy away from contact with the outside world, I receive a steady stream of emails from people asking me questions. These range from requests for advice on writing to comments about books and all points in between.
All are welcome, all appreciated and all replied to. After all, if someone has taken the trouble to mail me, it’s usually because they have taken the time to read something I’ve written so the very least I can do is respond. Time is, after all, the most valuable commodity any of us have.
However, there is one particular question thrown at me, and on a fairly regular basis, which always provides a warm glow of satisfaction; ‘what’s the next book about?’
The great joy of this question is that it provides both affirmation and confirmation in equal measures. For it provides proof that not only is my work liked, it’s anticipated! Could any author ask for more than that?
What makes it even more special is that my back list isn’t just varied, it could even be described as manic. I certainly can’t think of many authors who’ve published books about subjects as diverse as racism in football and farting although I’m sure there is much a decent psychiatrist could make of that!!
Yet as many people have told me, the eclectic nature of my work is part of the attraction. I am, as one reader put it, the Forrest Gump of lad-lit. I think that was meant as a compliment, it’s certainly how I took it anyway!
This ‘box of chocolates’ reference inevitably leads me onto another oft asked question, how do I pick the subjects for my books? The answer to that is simple, or at least it was.
Like most authors, I have a list of books I intend to write at some point. Some are based on personal experience, a few on a passion for something and others which stem from a simple nugget of an idea I have locked away in what passes for my memory. This list has always been fairly flexible and it’s fair to say that it contains books which will never, ever get written for no other reason than I simply don’t have the required skill to pull them off. And before anyone asks, yes, my autobiography is on there and no, it won’t ever get written. There are lots of reasons for this but ‘no one would ever believe half of it’ and ‘guilty your honour’ are two.
But in the past the underlying reason for the subject matter of a particular book was always purely and simply what I could persuade my publishers to print. A process which all too often was incredibly time consuming and frustrating involving arm twisting, deviousness and even grovelling. Indeed, it is a fact that Billy’s Log, which remains one of my personal favourite books (and is also one of my biggest sellers!) was only published at all because I insisted on having it tacked onto the contract for Barmy Army. But that process took two long years!
However, since the move into eBooks and the speed with which that allows me to both write and publish, things have changed immeasurably. For with the decision on what to write and when being mine and mine alone, not only am I in total control but I can be much more reactive to what my readers are telling me. The astonishing success of both The Crew and Top Dog since they went online (and however you look at it, almost 8 months at number one on both Amazon and iTunes is an astonishing feat) is a case in point. For with Wings of a Sparrow almost complete, I had already taken the decision on what to write next but such has been the volume of requests for a third book in that series, that has now become my next project.
That said, only yesterday I had a ‘bolt-of-lightning’ moment which got me so excited that I had to pull over and send emails about it from a lay-by on the A1 so it might be that things change again!
But that’s the joy of epublishing over traditional publishing. It allows me that flexibility which as a writer, is incredibly liberating.
And as long as my readers are happy to indulge me, I’m only too happy to continue along my meandering path.
God bless ‘em all!!!
One final thing I have to say. Just prior to EURO 2012, the BBC aired a documentary which made all kinds of accusations relating to the potentialfor racism and violence in the Ukraine and Poland and featured amongst other things, former England international Sol Campbell claiming that he thought some black and Asian fans might come home in coffins.
As I write this, it is the morning of the England vs Italy quarter final and without wishing to tempt fate, there has not been a mass outbreak of mass racism at a single game nor has there been a single England fan arrested.
We are all used to this type of media fed hysteria ahead of major tournaments but that does not make it right and it most certainly does not make it acceptable. Surely the time has come for the FA to make a stand against this ridiculous, insensitive and above all insulting style of sensationalist reporting and let it be known that it won’t put up with it any more.
But above all, Sol Campbell has done a huge disservice to his country and the many black and Asian England fans who stayed away from the tournament because of his ridiculous assertions. He was also incredibly insulting to the tournament hosts.
Thankfully, the England fans have already let it be known what they think of him with the brilliant ‘coffin parade’ in Donestsk but if he had anything about him, he’d have the balls to come out and admit he was wrong.
So, it’s underway. Thus far the games have all been great and thankfully we’ve seen barely any of the racism that was so feared pre-tournament.
What we have seen however, are sporadic incidents of violence but of course that was always going to happen wasn’t it. After all, why else are we seeing so many riot police on the streets of the host nations?
And this of course begs the question; why so much talk of one potential problem and so little of the very real one? After all, there have been thousands of inches of print and hour upon hour of television expended on racism whilst the very real threat of hooliganism has received barely a mention in comparison despite the fact that far more people are at risk of being caught up in violence than of being racially abused.
The reason of course, is that the pre-tournament media needed to fill space be it on paper, on line or on air and racism fits the bill perfectly. It is in many ways, the perfect story because we all understand it to be wrong which means that they can say pretty much whatever they like and hype it for all it’s worth sure in that there is no one to provide any kind of contra argument let alone complain.
Conversely, no one cares that some Ukrainian nutter is spewing forth dire warnings of what might happen should any Englishman dare step onto their soil because we all know that such threats are laughable, the media more than most. But they are also well aware that going into hoolie-mode might well attract the wrath of both the FA and the government and why risk that?
No, hooliganism is only news when something happens and then it’s suddenly big news. Occasionally, very big and very bad news.
In many ways, that’s why today is the big test for this tournament. We talk a lot about the Poles, the Ukrainians, the Russians, et al, but thanks to history and our domestic football culture, the English will inevitably always be at the centre of any discussion about hooliganism. They will also be the target. Not just for the local hooligans (and for ‘local’ read Poles, Ukrainians, Russians, Croatians, etc, etc) but for those who seek to soil our nations reputation and undo all the good work that has been done to change the negative perception of our travelling support.
That to me is a real worry. Let’s face it, there are plenty of journalists who would be happy to do whatever it takes to hand Mr Platini our collective heads on a plate and there are certainly enough policemen out there willing to help them do the job. With UEFA hardly being our biggest fans, finding ourselves standing in the dock in front of them is not an attractive proposition.
Don’t get me wrong and make no mistake, England might not travel abroad looking for trouble these days but there are plenty of lads amongst their number who won’t back away if it kicks off. However, those lads are also old hands who know the score and they are well aware of the bigger picture. They know better than anyone how to read an atmosphere but the problems arise when they are placed in a situation where backing off or chilling out isn’t an option left open to them.
As I write this, the majority of the England fans are in place, the sun is shining, the beer’s already flowing and the Police are twitchy. As the day progresses, it may well get more nervy and with our game over early, the fans will have a long evening ahead of them.
Oh yes, tonight is the first real test for this tournament. It’s also a huge test for our reputation. Let’s hope everyone passes it.
So, EURO 2012 is upon us and as is routine, it has been preceded as much by talk of potential off-field activities as it has by those we hope for on the pitch.
I don’t even know where to start with any of this because as most of you who will be reading this will know, it has, in the main, been bullshit. Indeed, I’ve had journalists from both Ukraine and Poland contact me almost apoplectic with rage about some of the things being said or inferred about their country these last few weeks.
It’s not like we don’t know that both countries have hooligan and racist elements (as does every country on the planet) or that when tournaments come around, everyone from hotel owners to prostitutes will be seeking to make a pound or two. That’s certainly not unique to Eastern Europe as anyone in Eastern London will know!
Yet the level of scaremongering here has been appalling and worst of all was Sol Campbells assertion that black and Asian fans risk coming home in body bags.
Now we all know Sol is a sensitive soul and that he’s never been adverse to kicking up a public fuss when fans have had the temerity to call him a nasty name or two but this was a step too far for all kinds of reasons (although I suspect it had more to do with his desire for a post-playing career on the anti-racism/media gravy train which continues to chug along quite nicely).
The problem of course, is that when it comes to issues such as racism (and football fans generally) the media and the anti-racist groups can say pretty much what they like sure in the knowledge that they will remain unchallenged. Fear has always been both the anti-racists biggest ally and their most powerful weapon for the tag of racist is one which is easily applied and difficult if not impossible to remove. Ask Ron Atkinson.
Yes, of course, racism is abhorrent in every way shape or form but having come so far in the battle to defeat the racists, the time has surely come when the population of this multi-cultural country ours of has the right to actually begin to question some of the things being said but we will only ever be able to do that once we can actually speak up free of fear. Because until we can do that, then we run the risk of allowing things to be said which are not only counter-productive but potentially extremely dangerous and that is what we have here.
The reaction to the Panorama documentary in both Poland and Ukraine has been one of extreme irritation but more importantly, those minority groups seeking to make names for themselves will now be well aware that the game and the world will be watching and if they want to make a statement, they already have everyone’s attention.
Thanks for that Sol.
Since I released my backlist online at the back end of last year, The Crew has spent an unbroken 30 weeks at #1 on the Amazon UK sports (free) chart, the Amazon US soccer chart and the iTunes soccer (free) chart whilst Top Dog has been in the top 3 (mostly at #1) on the Amazon UK (paid) football chart. In addition, all of my other titles are selling well on Amazon and if you look at the iTunes soccer charts, most weeks the top 50 will feature at least 7 (usually 8) of mine.
Now, whatever way you look at it, that is not too shabby a record and to say that I am both delighted and humbled by the fact that it is mine gives new meaning to the word understatement.
Somehow, writing has become my career and that is entirely down to my readers who for some reason seem to like my books so not for the first time I would like to thank everyone who has ever read or downloaded any of them and let you all know that I value every single one of you.
However, there is a specific reason why I mention this here and it is not simply to be boastful. You see the other day I was accused by a very well known sportsman of being a ‘wannabe’ writer.
Now I will admit that I had been winding this bloke up a little and it became fairly obvious from the childish way he began using his ‘award-winning’ autobiography as some kind of weapon that he was unused to hearing anything other than sycophancy. But whilst I laughed it (and him) off, it did get me thinking about the literary establishment in general and more specifically, my position within it.
Many years ago, I wrote that those of us who wrote in the so-called ‘hoolie-lit’ genre were not just regarded by the literary establishment as being at the bottom of the literary ladder, but as the rubber bungs on the feet. Sad to say that nothing has changed.
I, for example, despite the fact that I’ve been pumping out work for 16 odd years and have sold a fair amount of books, have yet to receive a single invite to any literary festival or event. I’ve never even been asked to attend the British Sports Book Awards despite the fact that I would guess I outsell pretty much every author there.
Now, it would be foolish to say this doesn’t irritate me at times because it does. However, what I find more irritating is that with increasing numbers of the ‘hoolie-lit’ books being put online and making their way into the charts, by refusing to acknowledge those of us who write about football culture it infers that those people who buy our books don’t really matter. That is incredibly disrespectful.
The only reason publishing exists at all is because people like to read be it in book or electronic form and it doesn’t matter if they’re reading Dan Brown or Chris Brown, every single person who spends money on a book is as important as the last. Lose sight of that and the whole thing will come crashing down.
Personally, I have always kept my focus on my readers but then again, I’ve always tried to understand my market and aimed to give it what it wants. Therefore chart positions have always been more important than invitations because it means books are selling and readers are happy.
Sadly, not everyone seems to think like that preferring instead to court only the opinions of those who can get their names into the papers. On which note, the ‘award-winning’ autobiography by the household name I mentioned previously isn’t even in the top 100 sports books and can currently be found in a remaindered store somewhere near you.
Not for the first time, the great game finds itself dragged into the news for all the wrong reasons.
Thanks to Ashley Young and his shameful theatrics for Manchester United we have calls for retrospective punishments for cheating –something I have always championed and fresh cries for goal line technology in the wake of yet another goal that never was. This time for Chelsea at Wembley.
Now both of these cases have two specific things in common. The first is that they resulted in goals and the second is that they involved cheating. In the Young case, it was disgustingly obvious but at Wembley it was less overt but equally shameful.
Post game and to their credit, both Frank Lampard and John Terry did the decent thing and admitted that the ball hadn’t crossed the line for the second goal. A fact that was proven by the numerous angles provided by the media. Yet if they knew that, why did they not point it out to the referee at the time? Indeed if Terry knew it wasn’t a goal, why was he actually seen claiming it?
Yes, I know there is an element of ‘win at all costs’ and like many football fans, I’d happily take a dodgy goal be it for Watford or England. But these were two former England captains remember and so is it that unreasonable to expect that they would have some concept of the idea of fair play? Especially since like all footballers they would have been instrumental in the establishment of the FA’s laughable ‘Respect’ initiative.
Of course having given voice to this ideal on Twitter I have now been accused of having an anti-Chelsea agenda which is exactly what happened
when I wrote about John Terry and the charges of racism levelled against him. Indeed, whilst I admire their spirited defence of their club and their captain I am always bemused by the reaction of Chelsea fans to anything said against them.
In many ways, the West London giants are the Samantha Brick of the football world. They have long considered themselves to be a cut-above the rest and always believed that not only are we all jealous of them because of their former status as the ‘glamour’ club but that these days we should all love them because of their achievements. However, what they have never understood is that it’s their very arrogance which is the reason so many people dislike them.
Liverpool are another club in danger of following the same path. Their refusal to play on the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster is understandable in many ways but the petulant way in which both the club and the fans have acted in recent weeks has been uncomfortable to observe. Not least because if they insist on marking the anniversary of the death of 96 lost souls in this manner, why not the death of the 39 at Heysel? Were they any less worthy?
Equally, does this infer that the deaths as a result of the Munich air crash or the Bradford fire were any less important because those clubs do not refuse to play on the anniversary of those tragedies?
Let’s be honest here, football is in desperate need of a bit of positive PR at the moment and to have a top flight player actually playing fair during a show-piece game at Wembley could well have been it.
It certainly wouldn’t have done either Chelsea or John Terry any harm either. Who knows, maybe those of us who follow other clubs might actually have begun to start liking them again.
My next book Wings of a Sparrow is coming along nicely with a planned ebook release early in June 2012. Full details can be found on the official Dougie Brimson website. Just click on the link.
In the meantime, if you haven’t read it yet, why not download The Crew. It’s been at #1 in the Amazon soccer charts for over 6 months now and is totally free so what do you have to lose?
And finally, could I respectfully ask everyone who has read a book and enjoyed it to take a few moments and post a review on either Amazon or iTunes? They really are important and are a great way to let us authors know that we’re doing an OK job! Or as someone else put it recently, a fabulous way to say thanks!
On this most awful of anniversary’s, please take a few moments to remember the 96 souls who died at Hillsborough 23 years ago today.
I’ve written much about that fateful day over the years, much of it admittedly controversial, but the bottom line is that people died simply because they wanted to watch a game of football. Even now those words seem shocking.
Thankfully, we will never see the like of Hillsborough again in this country again and tragic though it was, as a lasting legacy that’s a pretty damn good one.