Whatever happened to football fiction?

Assuming you read fiction at all you will know a few genres.  Science fiction maybe.  Detective fiction, Historical fiction, War fiction, the Wild west… you name it, fiction has it.

Except… football fiction.

Our biggest sport, the issue that occupies much of the nation not just at weekends but every day of the week.  And yet, where is it’s fictional counterpart?

It used to be there, of course.   Those of a certain age will remember Roy of the Rovers – the fair haired, always smiling, genetically pure Roy Race who played with Blackie Gray, Jimmy Slade, Duncan McKay and Mervyn Wallace

In fact I suspect it was Roy of the Rovers who destroyed football fiction.  It was all so pure, so goody-goody, so bloody Manchester United.   Melchester Rovers, Manchester United, who did the publishers think they were kidding?  Down my street in north London we hated it.

Long before Roy of the Rovers and its insidious north country Ayran propaganda it looked like football fiction would take its place alongside the other genres, for when Arsenal Stadium Mystery came out it was an instant number one best seller.  Translated into 15 languages, and a cinema filling movie, it was the biggest selling book ever for Leonard R. Gribble – himself a famous detective novelist of the 1930s.  (It is still available from GCR Books – see the link on the right).

But since then…

Will Buckley’s “The Man Who Hated Football” is a real gem, and I’ d recommend that to anyone who has an interest in football history and journalism.  The Damned United fits the bill (that’s the one which tells the Leeds story from Brian Clough’s point of view) but otherwise…

So, by publishing MAKING THE ARSENAL in the same genre I am to a degree fighting against the tide.  A football novel set 100 years ago, in which a football journalist (shades of the Man Who Hated Football) tracks events in the football world while making sense of his own life.

Could this be the book to give football fiction the kick in the arse that it needs?   It is not for me to say, but some of the heroes and villains of 1910  are still known to us.  There’s Henry Norris of course (he owned Fulham and also created the modern Arsenal), and Winston Churchill (home secretary of the day, and actively involved in the events that led up to the creation of the new Arsenal).

We might not remember Captain Kell – but we know his organisation well enough – he founded MI5, in 1910, and they were certainly keen to see if football matches were centers of nefarious spying activity on the part of Germany, at the time.

Then there was Florence Nightingale, Dr Crippen, and Mr Crapper (inventor of the WC).   Lloyd George took on the Lords – and managed to get his “people’s budget” signed off by an objecting King.

And no shortage of events – the earth passed through the tail of Haley’s comet, and all life was expected to end.  The king (known as Edward the Caresser) died.  There was talk of revolution in the shires, and the police and the mob combined to attack the Suffragettes outside the House of Commons.   There were even two general elections, and the second one ended in a tie.

Obviously my main hope is you’ll buy the book – but behind that I have a second thought.  Maybe I have done just a little bit more to establish football fiction as a genre.

There’s more information on www.woolwicharsenal.co.uk – where you can order to the book direct from the publishers.  Or if you prefer, there’s always Amazon.

(c) Tony Attwood 2009

7 Replies to “Whatever happened to football fiction?”

  1. On the MI5 front – which began to be a discussion on the last entry on this blog, I think MAKING THE ARSENAL is probably the first football novel that has integrated MI5 into football.

    And it has a reasonable excuse since the novel is set in 1910 and MI5 was founded that year.

  2. during the reading of the book I started exploring the original surroundings where we came from in Plumstead and even if I knew we haven’t been in North London. It just shows how much the world can change in some 100 years. By exploring I mean on the internet.

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