Sports Book Of The Year

Duncan Hamilton becomes the first ever three time winner of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year winner with his biography of cricket writer Neville Cardus

  • Duncan Hamilton and Donald McRae were both looking to win their third Sports Book of the Year award
  • Judges were “bowled over” by Hamilton’s book, The Great Romantic: Cricket and the Golden Age of Neville Cardus.

The Great Romantic: Cricket and the Golden Age of Neville Cardus by Duncan Hamilton (Hodder & Stoughton) has today, Thursday 5th December, been awarded the 2019 William Hill Sports Book of the Year. By winning the £30,000 award, presented by judge Mark Lawson at the Horseguards Hotel, Duncan Hamilton has become the first person to have won the award three times – having previously won in 2007 (Provided You Don’t Kiss Me) and 2009 (Harold Larwood: The Authorized Biography).

The Great Romantic is Duncan Hamilton’s comprehensive biography of venerated cricket writer and music journalist, Neville Cardus. His achievements in journalism changed the way in which sport was reported and introduced poise and eloquence into what had traditionally been a prosaic experience for both journalist and fan.

Alyson Rudd, Chair of Judges, said:
“The judges were bowled over by the quality of the writing and the way in which Hamilton brings to life the characters that defined cricket between the two world wars. The author explains that Neville Cardus was unknowable but this book does a very fine job indeed of guiding us through his career and motivations.”

Neville Cardus described how one majestic stroke-maker ‘made music’ and ‘spread beauty’ with his bat. Between two world wars, he became the laureate of cricket writing by doing the same with his words.

In The Great Romantic, Duncan Hamilton demonstrates how Cardus changed sports journalism for ever. While popularising cricket – by appealing, in Cardus’ words, to people who ‘didn’t know a leg-break from the pavilion cat at Lord’s’ he became a star in his own right with exquisite phrase-making, disdain for statistics and a penchant for literary and musical allusions.

Among those who venerated Cardus were PG Wodehouse, John Arlott, Harold Pinter, JB Priestley and Donald Bradman. However behind the rhapsody in blue skies, green grass and colourful characters, this richly evocative biography finds that Cardus’s mother was a sex worker, he never knew his father and he received negligible education. Infatuations with younger women ran parallel to a decidedly unromantic marriage. And, astonishingly, this supreme stylist’s aversion to factual accuracy led to his reporting on a match he didn’t attend.

Yet Cardus also belied his impoverished origins to prosper in another class-conscious profession, becoming a music critic of international renown. In this definitive biography, Duncan Hamilton casts light on the enigmatic character and immense achievements of a remarkable all-rounder.

The other shortlisted books were (in alphabetical order):

The Rise of the Ultra Runners: A Journey To Edge of Human Endurance – Adharanand Finn (Faber & Faber)
In Sunshine or in Shadow: How Boxing Brought Hope in the Troubles - Donald McRae (Hodder & Stoughton)
Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Wildest Horse Race – Lara Prior-Palmer (Penguin Random House)
Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump – Rick Reilly (Headline Publishing Group)
Position of Trust: A Football Dream Betrayed – Andy Woodward (Hodder & Stoughton)

The Times sportswriter and novelist, Alyson Rudd is Chair of the judging panel this year, while the panel itself consists of: journalist and broadcaster Mark Lawson; retired professional footballer and former chairman of the Professional Footballer’s Association, Clarke Carlisle; Olympic medallist and Chair of UK Sport Katherine Grainger; broadcaster and writer John Inverdale and the broadcaster Danny Kelly.

In winning the William Hill Sports Book of the Year, The Great Romantic, becomes the sixth cricket book to win the award and the first to do so since Hamilton’s book Harold Larwood won in 2009.

Previous winners of the prestigious award include Nick Hornby, Brian Moore, and Marcus Trescothick. Football is the most successful topic having won seven awards followed by cricket (six) and boxing (five).

The William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award, first awarded in 1989 to True Blue: The Oxford Boat Race Mutiny by Daniel Topolski and Patrick Robinson, is the world's longest established and most valuable literary sports-writing prize.

-ENDS-

For further information, please contact Joe Crilly 07850 518164, jcrilly@williamhill.co.uk 

Notes to Editors

  • This year’s prize was open to any full-length book, providing the subject was predominantly sporting, published for the first time in the UK between 13 October 2018 to 12 October 2019. Shortlisted authors will receive £3,000 cash and a leather-bound copy of their book.
  • The winner of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year will be announced at an afternoon reception at Horseguards Hotel, in central London, Thursday 5th December.
  • The 14 titles on the longlist of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award 2019 were:
    • They Don’t Teach This: Lessons from the Game of Life by Eniola Aluko (Yellow Jersey)
    • Unbreakable: The Woman Who Defied the Nazis in the World’s Most Dangerous Horse Race by Richard Askwith (Penguin Random House)
    • No Win Race: A Story of Belonging, Britishness and Sport by Derek A Bardowell (Harper Collins)
    • Rise of the Ultra Runners: A Journey to the Edge of Human Endurance by Adharanand Finn (Faber & Faber)
    • Homing by Jon Day (John Murray)
    • The Great Romantic: Cricket in the Age of Neville Cardus by Duncan Hamilton (Hodder & Stoughton)
    • Fighter - Andy Lee with Niall Kelly (Gill Books)
    • In Sunshine or in Shadow: How Boxing Brought Hope in the Troubles by Donald McCrae (Simon & Schuster)
    • The Beast, The Emperor and The Milkman: A Bone-shaking Tour through Cycling’s Flemish Heartlands by Harry Pearson (Bloomsbury)
    • Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Most Dangerous Horse Race by Lara Prior-Palmer (Penguin Random House)
    • Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump by Rick Reilly (Headline Publishing Group)
    • Recovering by Richie Sadlier (Gill Books)
    • How Football (Nearly) Came Home: Adventures in Putin’s Russia by Barney Ronay (Harper Collins)
    • Position of Trust: A Football Dream Betrayed by Andy Woodward (Hodder & Stoughton)
  • Previous winners of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award:

2018 – The Lost Soul of Eamonn Magee by Paul D. Gibson (JOINT WINNER)

2018 – The Boy in the Water by Tom Gregory (JOINT WINNER)

2017 – Tom Simpson: Bird on the Wire by Andy McGrath

2016 – Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan

2015 – The Game of Our Lives by David Goldblatt

2014 – Night Games: Sex, Power and a Journey into the Dark Heart of Sport by Anna Krien

2013 – Doped: The Real Life Story of the 1960s Racehorse Doping Gang by Jamie Reid

2012 – The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle

2011 – A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke by Ronald Reng

2010 – Beware of the Dog: Rugby’s Hardman Reveals All by Brian Moore

2009 – Harold Larwood: The Authorized Biography of the World’s Fastest Bowler by Duncan Hamilton

2008 – Coming Back to Me: The Autobiography by Marcus Trescothick

2007 – Provided You Don't Kiss Me: 20 Years with Brian Clough by Duncan Hamilton

2006 – Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson by Geoffrey Ward

2005 – My Father and Other Working-Class Football Heroes by Gary Imlach

2004 – Basil D'Oliveira: Cricket and Controversy by Peter Oborne

2003 – Broken Dreams: Vanity, Greed and the Souring of British Football by Tom Bower

2002 – In Black and White: The Untold Story of Joe Louis and Jesse Owens by Donald McRae

2001 – Seabiscuit: The True Story of Three Men and a Racehorse by Laura Hillenbrand

2000 – It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life by Lance Armstrong

1999 – A Social History of English Cricket by Derek Birley

1998 – Angry White Pyjamas: An Oxford Poet Trains with the Tokyo Riot Police by Robert Twigger

1997 – A Lot of Hard Yakka: Triumph and Torment - A County Cricketer's Life by Simon Hughes

1996 – Dark Trade: Lost in Boxing by Donald McRae

1995 – A Good Walk Spoiled: Days and Nights on the PGA Tour by John Feinstein

1994 – Football Against the Enemy by Simon Kuper

1993 – Endless Winter: The Inside Story of the Rugby Revolution by Stephen Jones

1992 – Fever Pitch; A Fan’s Life by Nick Hornby

1991 – Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times by Thomas Hauser

1990 – Rough Ride: An Insight into Pro Cycling by Paul Kimmage

1989 – True Blue: The Oxford Boat Race Mutiny by Daniel Topolski and Patrick Robinson