Heads Up: David's Peace's Bill Shankly novel Red or Dead


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The Independent Culture

What are we talking about? A new novel about the rise of Liverpool Football Club, and its manager, Bill Shankly – until his surprise resignation at the height of the club's success in 1974.

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Elevator pitch The not-so-Damned United: Peace plays the beautiful game with Bill Shankly.

Prime movers David Peace, the author. He's got form in fictionalising football: his 2006 novel The Damned United was about Brian Clough's tenure at Leeds United. He's also known for his Red Riding series, made into an acclaimed TV drama.

The stars Shankly, "a man of two halves", we are promised. Peace should bring the man convincingly to life, and has spoken of his admiration for the "saint" of footie.

Early buzz Will Dean wrote in The Independent: "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 …. Regardless of who you support, it has the potential to be the sports book of 2013. Next up for Peace, Fergie?" The Liverpool Echo wrote: "David Peace … has written Red or Dead, due to be released to coincide with this year's centenary of the legendary Liverpool manager's birth. Described as 'a revolutionary novel about a revolutionary man', it will chart Shankly's devotion to the game, the club, and the city he loved."

Insider knowledge Karen Gill, Shankly's granddaughter and honorary president of the Liverpool FC supporters' committee, has expressed her delight that Peace is writing the book; she was already a fan after The Damned United.

It's great that … it's a positive story about football, and about a man whose involvement with the game deserves to be really celebrated; the publishers have described it as "a tonic and a wake-up-call in these days of extraordinary wealth, privilege and abuse of both in the Premier League".

It's a shame that … last time he wrote about real-life football figures – Brian Clough, and Johnny Giles – Peace seriously upset the former's family and landed himself in court on a charge of libel from the latter. Fingers crossed there won't be any apologies, re-edits, or financial pay-outs this time.

Hit potential Has a double appeal: to Peace fans and to football fans. Back of the net!

The details Red or Dead is published 1 August by Faber.