Jonathan Rendall, a wayward talent who laid himself bare in his writing
He was a boxing writer whose vivid, funny pieces helped establish The Independent on Sunday
In its early years The Independent on Sunday was blessed with an array of young talent that would go on to literary prominence - Zoe Heller, Sebastian Faulks, Allison Pearson and Anthony Lane to name just a few. No less gifted than any of those was the sportswriter Jonathan Rendall, who has died aged 48.
Boxing was Rendall's metier. He wrote about it with a Runyonesque eye for character. His pieces - vivid, funny, poignant - read like short stories. He had such an affinity with the sport that later on in his career he combined writing about it with managing the leading British featherweight Colin McMillan.
Rendall assumed some of boxing's more rackety ways. He was deeply lovabale - a tall handsome figure and a bundle of nervous energy - but he was less than reliable and prone to mishap. I was one of his editors on The IoS sports desk, and with Jon it often felt like you were dealing with a wayward teenager. He would go AWOL. Then right on deadline a brilliant piece would turn up.
I first encountered Rendall at The Times in the 1980s when he came to the paper as a freelance having not long graduated from Oxford. It was clear how good he already was, and he was one of IoS's first signings when it launched in 1990. A fellow editor from those days, someone who has occupied senior positions across Fleet Street throughout the past 20 years, told me that Rendall was the best writer he had ever worked with.
Norman Lomax was a sports photographer for The IoS and accompanied Rendall on many assignments. “Jon's passion for life and experience was all-consuming,” Lomax said. “Sometimes infectious, sometimes unnerving but always exciting. And that's how he wrote. But he also had a softer, self-effacing and generous side to him.”
Rendall produced three outstanding books. This Bloody Mary Is The Last Thing I Own amounted to a statement on boxing. In Twelve Grand, Rendall got to gamble £12,000 and see where it took him. (The book formed the basis of a Channel 4 series Rendall made called The Gambler.) Garden Hopping was the story of how Rendall, who was adopted, tracked down his birth mother, with painful consequences. In life as well as his writing, he laid himself bare.
Rendall married and had three children. But the marriage broke up, and he was in an accident that left him partially disabled. He was found dead last month at his Suffolk home.
It is easy to think that Jon might have achieved more but then again he achieved an awful lot. And the part he played in helping The IoS establish itself and flourish cannot be over-estimated.
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