Sunday, 22 November 2015

Book Review: Stumps and Runs and Rock n' Roll: Sixty Years Spent Beyond A Boundary by Tim Quelch

Part cricket book, part social history and part homage to popular music, Tim Quelch's latest book is the story of a life spent following cricket, primarily as a supporter.

He is late into cricket book writing, but as Stephen Chalke has so admirably proven, that should be no barrier to success, nor to the reader's enjoyment. That the proceeds from his books go to charity is laudable, but no charitable urges are needed to support a book that is enjoyable from start to finish.

The author's strength is an ability to come up with a phrase that takes the reader, almost effortlessly, to the action. Wes Hall 'pounded in off a prodigiously long run, that began just yards from my cupped chin' beautifully captures the fascination of the game for the ardent follower, while Derek Underwood 'waddling to the wicket with the menace of a reclusive accountant,  bewildered by exposure to dazzling daylight' encapsulates a great bowler in a phrase that John Arlott would have enjoyed.

I don't recall reading a cricket book before where the subject veers from Madonna to David Gower in the course of a paragraph, and any page that name checks both Jimi Hendrix and Curtley Ambrose has much going for it, at least for me. It is the surprise element that keeps the reader going, especially when the subject matter is well-known. The ardent cricket fan knows what happened in a given Test series, but the way in which Quelch presents his material is unique and thoroughly engaging.

The passage on Devon Malcolm's nine for 57 against South Africa in 1994 is superb and took me back to when I lay on the floor with my young son playing with Thomas the Tank Engine toys, yet with one eye willing the Derbyshire man on to even greater efforts. Such is the gift of fine writing, taking the reader back to that time and place, while for those too young to experience it, telling it like it really was. 

There are fascinating insights into a personal life that leaves one wanting more too, with genuinely funny anecdotes rubbing shoulders with others that remind of the daily challenges that we all experience. It leaves the reader wanting to know more about the author, yet confirms his genuine talent in knowing exactly when to let it go. Few readers will end the book without feeling that the author would make wonderfully engaging company in a day at the cricket.

Tim Quelch deserves warm congratulations on a book that should be indispensable for those of a certain age, as well as required reading for those who want to find out what English cricket has been all about during the reign of Queen Elizabeth.

Definitely one for the Christmas stocking and a book that will get you through the dark nights until it all starts again next April.

Stumps & Runs & Rock n' Roll: Sixty Years Spent Beyond a Boundary is written by Tim Quelch and published by Pitch Publishing. It is available on Amazon for £17.99 and is also available from good book shops.

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