August 23, 2010 12:53
Another football season has begun and to celebrate Biteback Sport are thrilled to publish two fantastic new books. An exploration of the culture of the game, We Ate All The Pies and a classic account of one fan’s obsession with his club, An Irrational Hatred of Luton, these books are every football fan’s must-reads this season!
We Ate All the Pies
“Two words guaranteed to make any piece of writing worth reading: John and Nicholson... even when you don’t agree with him you sort of wish you did. In fact, you wonder if you even agree with yourself anymore.” Sid Lowe, The Guardian
Football is weird. Damn weird. Why do we love it so intensely? Why are millions of us utterly obsessed by it? Why does it occupy so many people’s minds so much of the time? It is a kind of drug or some sort of hypnosis. It’s not just a ball going into a net. Hell no. Have you watched football? A lot of it is so boring it can make your eyes melt.
In We Ate All the Pies, John Nicholson, gonzo sports writer and star columnist for football365.com, asks all these questions and more in order to discover exactly why football is so popular.
From food to booze, to TV, to merchandise and into the psychology of the national identity, John digs deep to find answers and in doing so creates a unique, funny, warm and thought-provoking excursion into our football lives, told in his trademark off-beat, passionate and irreverent style.
An Irrational Hatred of Luton
“Somewhere in a parallel universe there is another Robert Banks, who is a season ticket at Manchester United and is a highly successful novel writer and adored by everyone of the world, regardless of football, religious or racial denomination. But is he happy? You bet the hell he is.”
But Robert Banks is not that man. Since childhood, he has been obsessed with West Ham United Football Club. A team of persistent and historical underachievers. After all, the only thing West Ham ever brought home was the 1966 World Cup, but that doesn’t count, apparently.
Originally published in 1995, An Irrational Hatred of Luton fast became a cult classic amongst Hammers and football fans in general. Spanning twenty years of matches home and away, it contains some of the most sublime writing on football and the irrational nature of fandom ever committed to paper.
Laugh out loud funny, and almost devastatingly poignant, An Irrational Hatred of Luton is an odyssey through the world of a committed football supporter. A real-life Fever Pitch, and with a Hornby-esque deftness of tone, Banks’ book shows how intricately in the life of a true fan, football interconnects with the everyday.
Banks’ friendships, relationships, work, emotions of joy and despair all take place against a backdrop of claret and blue. Then Saturday comes and he watches his team get thumped again. This is a compelling and hilarious journey into the nature of obsession.
We Ate All the Pies and An Irrational Hatred of Luton are available to buy from the Biteback website, both £9.99.
August 20, 2010 13:14
"None of us can help the things life has done to us. They’re done before you realise it, and once they’re done they make you do other things until at last everything comes between you and what you’d like to be, and you’ve lost your true self forever." Eugene O'Neill (Long Day's Journey into Night)
While researching and writing my book, You Alone May Live, the story of my experiences of the Rwandan genocide and its aftermath, I spoke to those who have similar stories to tell, whose resilience has pushed them to challenge their trauma and focus on the future. Together, we’ve witnessed the wounds of trauma in its various forms. <!--more-->
I began to recognise how influential this long term trauma is on the remaking of an individual’s reality. A person’s fear, combined with apprehension, vigilance and lack of trust, can make life’s hassles and stresses overwhelming. They can become quick to blame and direct anger towards one of their loved ones. Their fear is most certainly real, but they cannot confront the cause of it. The crimes committed against them and their families are still raw and recur often in their dreams: images of the killers waving machetes, gang-raping and driving their weapons into the hearts of their loved ones are constantly replayed. This is made worse when the victims are forced to coexist daily with the perpetrators. An everyday confrontation with the killers of one’s family results in a constant hopelessness, and demoralises one’s will to live. Reliving the memories of these horrific events is a burden that renders life meaningless.
I set up the Survivors Fund (SURF) to give these survivors a purpose in life, a reason to fight. Setting up SURF was worth every sacrifice, not just because of the memory of my lost family but especially for my brother Jean Baptiste. I believe that SURF has made his life worthwhile. SURF focuses on helping to rebuild the lives of survivors. And it derives its strength from the determination of the people not to be consumed by the hatred perpetrated against them. They were fighting, in a sense, fighting back with purpose and meaning.
After the holocaust the world said “Never Again”, yet the Rwandan genocide claimed one million lives in a mere hundred days. The Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, recalls the words of Martin Luther King: “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”
You Alone May Live highlights the fact that despite the world’s obsession with forgiveness and reconciliation, the survivors of the genocide still live in dire situations and ill health with no shelter, no income, no appropriate rehabilitation and no justice for their lost families. Fear is ever present in their lives. My book gives voice to their stories, telling the world about their survival against all odds. Political justice for the survivors of the Rwandan genocide is essential so they can heal their hearts and minds, and eventually aid their forgiveness and reconciliation with the rest of Rwanda.
You Alone May Live is available from Biteback, priced £17.99
August 19, 2010 17:09
Michael Smith writes:
"It often seems as if espionage is more about turf wars between the various agencies than collecting intelligence. If it isn’t the Americans claiming some great spying success that was actually down to the British, it’s the British claiming one that was down to the Poles, as they did with the breaking of the German Enigma cipher. Biteback’s latest title Codename Rygor: The Spy behind the Allied victory in North Africa is an example of where the Americans claimed an espionage coup that was in fact down to the Poles.
The first major allied landing of the Second World War, Operation Torch, in November 1942 saw US and British troops swiftly defeat the Vichy French forces. One of the key factors was the extensive intelligence they possessed, which was largely credited to the US Consul in Algiers Robert Daniel Murphy. In fact, the vast bulk of the allied intelligence came from the Polish intelligence service representative in the Algerian capital, Major-General Mieczyslaw Zygfryd Slowikowski, codenamed Rygor."<!--more-->
To whet your appetite, here is an excerpt from Codename Rygor..., where Slowikowski's cover is potentially jeopardised:
"The next morning (the 16th), after a sleepless night, my routine was interrupted by Achiary’s unexpected arrival. I had never seen him looking so nervous and tense. The first word I heard was ‘Treason!’
Early that morning his men had stopped a group of two men and two women arriving from France without documents, ostensibly fleeing from Paris and from arrest. They stated that they wanted to meet ‘RYGOR, who is in charge of the Allied secret service in Algiers’. This news put him on guard as it reeked of provocation by the Gestapo, who had somehow uncovered the existence of our network. He had no idea what to do with them. They had no means of support and he did not have any funds at his disposal for such a contingency. Thank God, he had arrested them without the knowledge of the Germans or of Commissioner Begue, who, fortunately, was not on the ship. The situation was extremely serious.
I told him: First of all, I’ll immediately give you some money for their support. We’ll have to keep them in hiding for the time being. The Polish Secret Service is operating within Occupied France with a main outpost in Paris. Many Frenchmen and women are employed in the network. While I was still in Marseilles, I knew some of their cryptonyms, for example ‘La Chatte’ [in London known to Poles and British as VICTOIRE]. I’ve heard nothing from London about betrayal and arrests in Paris. If these people are saying something about the Secret Service there, then they must have cryptonyms if they worked for it. You must speak to them again and find out. In the meantime, I’ll ask Central Office for clarification and we’ll decide what to do after London replies.
Achiary, having calmed down, and with the funds in his pocket, went to obtain the information, which he would immediately report back to me.
There were only two possibilities: first, some form of betrayal leading to arrests, the liquidation of the Paris outpost and the network, and the agents’ escape. I still couldn’t understand how individual agents came to know about my cryptonym and my Algerian work. How could TUDOR, the only person in France who knew my cryptonym, have passed it on to Czerniawski, and how could it have become known to the other agents? That worried me most. Secondly, perhaps the Gestapo really had picked up my trail and, since they knew of our work, had sent agents provocateurs to Algiers. In that case, I resolved to get rid of them – there was no other choice."
Codename Rygor: The spy behind the Allied victory in North Africa is part of our new Dialogue Espionage Classics series and is available from Biteback, priced £9.99
August 17, 2010 13:46
The first in a new series for Biteback Publishing, Tim Coates gets, well, bookish.
What is your favourite book and why?
The Scots Quair by Lewis Grassic Gibbon (of which Sunset song is the first part). I read this first when I was living in Scotland and the language is so beautiful and original. I also adore the short stories of Katherine Mansfield and would call that my favourite book, too, in all possible editions and variations. The opening pages of "At the bay" are near to heaven on earth as I have found. Florrie the cat - you'll see.
As a child, what was your favourite book and why?
I read Jane Eyre when I was 10 and have re-read it several times. I don't think I could tell you the story, but if I open the book at any page, the writing and the style are totally electrifying for me. Every sentence. Now it reminds me of childhood and reading under the covers.
What book would you take on holiday this year?
I have been reading the novels of Georges Simenon. Not the Maigret stories, which are wonderful, but the novels he wrote that do not feature Maigret. They are high class novels of the 30s, 40s and 50s to match anything American of the same time. I have been searching second hand stores for them and take them everywhere.<!--more-->
Do you have a favourite political book/biography?
I learned my politics from two writers: Jaruslav Hasek and Kurt Vonnegut. Both are deeply sceptical of politics and administration in a very funny way. They have influenced me enormously. Many people don't like Hasek and I'm sure he was reprobate, but royal families should be seen as he saw his. Kurt Vonnegut is a total genius.
Which book published in the last ten years do you think is the most significant?
Delane's War... In it I tried to tell the story of how politics is now currently as a metaphor in history. I hope it gets wider readership.
Which literary character would you most like to be and why?
Beethoven. I know he wasn't a literary character, but he is the person I would most like to have been. Ridiculous, but it is my daily wish to have been him, or even like him.
Tim Coates' latest book Delane's War: How front-line reports from the Crimean War brought down the British Government is available now for £19.99 here.
August 16, 2010 11:49
This weekend the Daily Express had a fantastic feature written by Anna Pukas on Vin Arthey's The Kremlin's Geordie Spy.
"IN the early hours of June 21, 1957, two FBI agents knocked on the door of room 839 at the Latham Hotel in New York.
It was opened by a lean, balding man in his 50s and as he sat on the bed, naked, silent and minus his dentures, he could not have looked more unprepossessing. Though they didn’t yet know it the FBI men had just bagged one of the most important Soviet spies working in the West.
As a search of his hotel room unearthed a miniature photographic kit, messages on microfilm hidden in hollowed out pencils and thousands of dollars in cash it became apparent that the man calling himself Martin Collins – who was wanted for entering the US illegally – had done more than cross the border on a forged passport. Finally he admitted that Collins was not his real name. “My name is Rudolf Ivanovich Abel,” he said.
If the arresting FBI agents wondered how a Russian had acquired such fluent, accentless English they would have found the answers on his birth certificate. Abel was in fact born William August Fisher in 1903 at 140 Clara Street, Benwell, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England. A bona fide British grammar schoolboy he rose to become a colonel in the KGB, as a fascinating new book on his life reveals."<!--more-->
The feature is available to read in its entirety on the Daily Express website.
The Kremlin's Geordie Spy by Vin Arthey is published later this month, and is available for pre-order from the Biteback website, priced £9.99