The Blagger's Guide To: Fictional sporting heroes
Drama, romance adventure ... and jockstraps
Sunday 05 August 2012
Gemma Gibbons, Peter Wilson – as of the last week, we've got a brand new set of heroes. But as their names enter the history books, what of the sporting pin-ups we love already? One of the joys of the Olympics for non-sports fans has been the number of touching and inspirational personal stories to have emerged. Well, needless to say, writers have been on to this for some time, and readers of sporting fiction will be quite used to the tears, the trauma, and the nail-biting. For those who, until last week, thought sport had no place in their lives, let alone their bookcases, let the Blagger be your guide.
Quenton Cassidy is the lovable hero of John L Parker's 1978 classic, Once a Runner, based on the author's experiences of competitive running. Cassidy is an American student who dreams of running a four-minute mile; he's only one second off when the Vietnam War breaks out. After taking part in a student protest, he is suspended from the team. Things can only get better after he loses his scholarship and his girlfriend, and the arc of the story then follows a familiar sports fiction trajectory, as he fights back to run the race of his life. An inspirational tale of overcoming the odds, made doubly so by the fact that Parker originally had to publish this himself.
Hailed by The Times as "probably the best novel ever written about sport", The Damned Utd became a word-of-mouth hit in the summer of 2006. Written by David Peace, it tells a fictionalised account of the 44 days that Brian Clough spent as manager of Leeds United in 1974. This may not seem like an obviously thrilling episode, but through imagined diary extracts, Clough's character emerges as a big-hearted but flawed Shakespearean hero, drunk and magnificent. The book is about fathers and sons, the 1970s, and football before it was swallowed by bling, but the stand-out hero is Clough.
Freya North's fourth novel, Cat, tells the story of a 29-year-old female journalist tasked with covering the Tour de France. Having split up from her long-term boyfriend, Cat is thrust into a tumult of shaven-legged men in bulging lycra. Admittedly this is chick lit on two wheels but, like a lot of North's writing, it's funny and engaging and has an endearing ingénue heroine at its heart.
Olympic fencing is a direct descendant of the swash-buckling duels of the 17th century, whose greatest proponent was D'Artagnan from The Three Musketeers. Actually written in 1844, Alexander Dumas' novel was based on the diaries of the real-life Monsieur d'Artagnan, which he borrowed from a Marseilles library – though Dumas was a keen fencer himself. The book's title refers to his three friends, Athos, Porthos and Aramis – "One for all, and all for one!" – who are arguably now more famous than D'Artagnan.
Rupert Campbell-Black may be remembered as the villain of Jilly Cooper's "Rutshire" novels, but true fans will point out that the sexy show-jumper wins a gold medal for Team GB at the end of Riders. Cooper has admitted she based her caddish anti-hero on Andrew Parker Bowles, first husband of the Duchess of Cornwall. One wonders if Camilla was reminded of her old life, in and out of horse-boxes, while watching Zara Phillips compete last week ….
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 California man brutally beat 82-year-old Sikh grandfather he mistook for 'one of those people'
- 2 Charles Kennedy 'had better judgement drunk than many sober politicians' says Ian Hislop
- 3 Gay teenager 'forced to have sex with his own mother' to 'cure' his homosexuality, campaigners in India say
- 4 Fifa corruption: Qatar says investigations are racist, anti-Arab and show 'ugly face' of countries who lost 2022 World Cup bid
- 5 We have six months to save the world, says leading economist
Game of Thrones, Battle of Hardhome: 20-minute Wildlings versus White Walkers battle took a 'solid month' to film
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 9, The Dance of Dragons: Jon Snow returns to The Wall after epic Battle of Hardhome
Touch-screen Teletubbies have arrived: Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po are back, now with smart technology
Ed Sheeran debuts new song 'Sweet Mary Jane' about his love affair with weed
Black Angel: Long lost Star Wars precursor to be made into crowdfunded feature film
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Michael Gove determined to scrap the Human Rights Act – even if Scotland retains it
Threat to scrap Human Rights Act could see UK follow Nazi example, warns UN official
Church of England 'one generation away from extinction' after dramatic loss of followers