“As time goes on it hurts more and more to depict someone who's not here to defend themselves. And if it upsets your Mum, it upsets you." So said Simon Clough, son of legendary football manager Brian Clough when the film version of The Damned United was released in 2009.
The book, by David Peace, was a fictionalised account of Clough’s 44-day reign at Leeds United and, though Clough’s family objected vehemently to its depiction of their patriarch (as did Johnny Giles who sued him for his depiction), the novel quickly became a critical and word of mouth hit, with Peace utilising the staccato, rhythmic prose style he’d perfected in the gloomy Red Riding series and miners’ strike thriller GB84 to articulate Clough’s tormented inner monologue as he lost his grip and control of his players at Leeds.
Today, Peace’s publishers Faber and Faber announced that, after a series of novels based in Japan, Peace will be returning to write about English football with a novel about legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly.
So should John Toshack and Ian St John get their lawyers prepped? Not by the sound of things. Peace – a fan of Huddersfield, who Shankly also managed – explained his motivation thus:
"I have written about corruption, I've written about crime, I've written about bad men and I've written about the demons. But now I've had enough of the bad men and the demons. Now I want to write about a good man. And a saint.”
Red or Dead will focus on how Shankly transformed a second division team with a crumbling stadium into a British footballing institution without rival for two decades and how, suddenly, in 1974, Shankly stood down. Half of Peace’s book will focus on Shankly’s retirement, one in which he saw his team become even greater under Bob Paisley and struggled to let go of the club he’d built and, so he thought, didn’t treat him as well in retirement as Liverpool’s biggest rivals Everton and Manchester United. Regardless of who you support, it has the potential to be the sports book of 2013.
Next up for Peace, Fergie?
Red or Dead by David Peace will be released in August