The Briggers


I went along to the book launch of this, this morning at the Hawes Inn.  It’s written by Elspeth Wills, founder of Scotinform and my old boss.

It looks like a very interesting read and sheds a whole new light on the building of the bridge.

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Note.  Whilst this is an excellently written post, Jeana (who wrote it) seems to forget that “I’ means Mark Gorman, not ‘she’ as in Jeana Gorman.  It’s a borderline case of unacceptable blog hijacking but you would think that ‘she’ would want her own blog (which she has, as it happens.  Here in fact.)

Anyway, good luck to Elspeth (a good pal of mine) on her latest book.

A book of two halves


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“I wouldn’t say I was the best manager in the business. But I was in the top one.”

So said Brian Clough; reflecting on his up and down career.

I have written elsewhere about the Clough phenomenon, in my review of the quite remarkable David Peace novel, Damned Utd but this is something different and just as touching.

The man is truly unique and I bought Provided you don’t kiss me, the 2007 William Hill Book of The Year, on the basis that I thought it would be full of ascerbic and hilarious insights into his career as seen by an insider.

It’s written by the previously unknown (in book terms at least) Duncan Hamilton, but surely we can’t have seen the last of him. Hamilton was a rookie sportswriter/reporter on the Nottingham Evening Post and so got first dibs on Cloughie for over 20 years. The relationship he built with Clough is at the heart of this book.

It is a thing of great beauty.

It’s no kiss and tell, despite the title, rather it is a heart felt, honest, even loving reminiscence of how a provincial reporter built an intimate, trusting relationship with the greatest football manager in history; and let’s not overlook this fact. He was.

Let’s get this in perspective. Nottingham Forest winning a League title and two European cups in the late seventies was the equivelant of someone like Stoke, or Colchester doing it now. Provincial, modest crowds (never above 25,000 even at their peak) and peniless.

And yet. And yet.

And yet Clough (and let’s not forget Taylor – Hamilton sure doesn’t) built Nottingham Forest into the greatest team in Europe.

They pissed on the mighty Liverpool.

But the book is not a football borefest. It ain’t for anoraks, it’s for people who love people. Clough was like a surrogate father to Hamilton. It was a love affair of sorts. A truly symbiotic relationship.

As the book moves through the glory years and into Clough’s decline it is sad beyond belief. At several points I was close to tears as Hamilton recounts Cloughie’s decline into alcoholism, his loss of dignity and confidence and his eventual, rather sad, retirement and most heartfelt of all; his death.

This book is a window into the human soul. A historical insight that no-one else could have written.

It IS funny in parts; because Cloughie was a star comedian (indeed he was a mate of Eric Morecambe’s).

But poignancy is its greates virtue.

Wonderful.

Current reading


The Peel Sessions

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This is not literary genius, far from it.  Most would argue that it is an anorak’s notebook and that would be very close to the truth.  But, you know what.  It’s great.  It proves that Peel, and his army of producers, most notably John Walters, were demi-gods and men of much greatness that transformed the lives of the bands they broke and their many dedicated listeners (self included).

It’s also a cornucopia of facts.  The headliner being.  Which band did the most Peel Sessions?  The answer is, of course, The Fall with 24.

Yes, 24!

He liked them then…

Truly the world is depleted without him.

Books of the year


It was a slow year for me. I can’t have read more than a dozen books in all, but very few duffers came my way, indeed I think the Mrs may have out-read me and will no doubt post her own best-of by close of play today.

However many of the best books I read were recommended by Ian Dommett, so he goes to the top of my critics list.

In no particular order my favourite reads of the year were.

The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood.

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In truth this probably wins by a nose. The fact that it was written in 1985 is a strength as it shows off her perceptiveness even better than if one read it at the time of its release. Is it her best book? Hard to say as she is such a brilliant writer, but it certainly sits alongside Oryx and Crake, The Robber Bride, Alias Grace and he Blind Assassin. All magnificent.

You’ll find my full review here if you are interested.

Then We came to The End by Joshua Ferris

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I predict this will be a monster in paperback. It’s been on many year end lists this year and so should get the reviews it deserves when it comes out in PB in 2008. I think it’s slated for a movie too, although the mystery that is implicit in its writing will probably be diluted on screen. I reviewed it here.

The Damned Utd byDavid Peace

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My all time favourite sports book. It’s a novel but reads like a Biography od Brian Clough in his 43 days as manager of Leeds Utd. Not a happy experience. It is frightening how out of control Cloughie was. So good was it that I asked for, and recieved, “provided you don’t Kiss me, 20 Years with Brian Clough” for my Christmas. I’m really looking forward to that. Anyway I reviewed David Peace here. Highly recommended.

An Occurance at Owl Creek by Ambrose Bierce

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It’s just a short story but it’s packed with drama and a brilliant twist.  Read more here.

 The Virgin Suicides by Jeffery Eugenides

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I was blown away by this.  Far superior (aren’t they all) to the movie; it gets right under your skin in a very odd way.  But he’s a very odd writer.  My mother read this and his other masterpiece, Middlesex, on my recommendation and loved both of them.  More here.

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

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This is an interesting but overwritten and ultimately pompous diatribe against the existence of God.  Nevertheless, until he starts getting overly political about it all it is a very interesting essay and worthy of reading for anyone who has any interest in the existence of god(s).  Read more here.

 Auchwitz by Laurence Rees

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I was gripped by this book and I also liked the BBC Drama later in the year that depicted the liberation of Auchwitz.  Not by the same writer.

It’s a detailed account of the concept behind Auchwitz and throws the net of Nazi guilt far wider than Hitler.  Well written and absorbing it is, despite its gruesome content, a compelling read. 

 On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

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Great, but not his greatest.  I wrote an overly glowing review of this on completion, but, in hindsight, it’s a bit style over content.  Still beats most of the muck that gets published though.

Agent Zig Zag by Ben Macintyre

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If this was a novel it would be rejected on grounds of ludicracy.  It is in fact, the true life account of an English Double agent who crossed sides more often than Michael Stewart.  It’s real boys own stuff and a splendid read.  What ho!