Book of the week: Frank Keating – The Highlights edited by Matthew Engel
Saturday 24 May 2014
The first time I spoke to Frank Keating, then at the height of his powers as the Guardian’s chief sports writer, was when, as a newly arrived sub-editor at the paper in the early Eighties, I was deputed to sub one of his articles.
Through no fault of Frank’s – the page designer was renowned for favouring flair over accuracy – his piece needed a major cut, so I phoned him with the bad news and diffidently asked if he wanted to choose which sections to lop. “Oh no, you’re the chap on the spot,” he replied. “Do what you like with my drivel, m’dear.”
Drivel it wasn’t, of course, but it was unlike any other sports writing before or since. Frank’s style was a heady mix of romanticism, humour and joyful wordplay, all framed by a confiding, conversational tone. His love of alliteration could at times be almost poetic, as when he wrote of “Norwich’s sword-sharp, Siberian sleet”, at times sheer fun, as when he described the eccentric England batsman Derek Randall’s antics at the crease as “frenzied fidgeting for the ferret in his flannels”.
Frank wrote for the Guardian for more than 40 years, as well as penning well over 1,000 magazine articles and 14 books, before his death aged 75 in January last year. Well before then, and partly due to ill-health, he had largely stopped travelling to live events, and was viewed condescendingly in certain quarters as somewhat of a yesterday’s man, keener to reminisce about the 1948 Australian Test side than the current series.
But reading this compilation of his work is to be reminded what a great reporter and perceptive interviewer he could also be, and just how much he loved his work. As one colleague put it: “He didn’t write too much about [sport’s] technique or language. He wrote about its soul.”
A lovely man, a lovely writer.
Published in hardback by Faber & Faber, £17.99
Latest in Sport
Kevin Garside: Manchester United may have history and tradition but, as David Moyes never realised, a big-time manager always bends such things to his will
F1 Hungarian Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton disobeys orders and closes gap to Nico Rosberg in title race
Manchester United latest: Juan Mata emerges as Louis van Gaal's favoured No 10 as prospect of signing Angel Di Maria fails to improve
Arsenal: Arrival of Calum Chambers and David Ospina puts Arsène Wenger's spending past £50m
Tour de France 2014: Vincenzo Nibali confirmed as champion as he puts Italy back on the map with triumph
- 1 Secret Cinema interview: Why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
- 2 Christians: The world's most persecuted people
- 3 Israel-Gaza conflict: The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
- 4 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
- 5 Iraq crisis: End 'very near' for Christianity after Isis takeover, says Bishop
Israel-Gaza conflict: The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Opponents of Israel's military operation in Gaza are the real enemies of Middle Eastern peace
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Were 'Poor Doors' added to mixed developments so wealthy residents don't have to go in alongside social housing tenants?
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
£30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable software house is looking ...
£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established professional services...
Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - SENIOR COMMERCIAL LITIGATION SO...
£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...