By Graham Sharpe

Holiday Reading

For reasons which need not concern you, other than to know that it was in order to mark the passing of a highly significant and unwelcome landmark of age, I recently spent a week's holiday in sunny Cyprus.

Well, it was eventually sunny although when we arrived they were trying to shake off the effects of a mini hurricane cum whirlwind which had produced some of the worst weather they had experienced for many a long year.

Whilst wandering around Paphos I noticed that the town was well served with betting shops, some boasting familiar names like Victor Chandler, others that I hadn't previously come across like Glory Sports. Inside they boasted facilities to match those of the average British shop but seemed to concentrate the great majority of their business on football betting, with coupons including games from all over Europe much in evidence and odds on offer which were comparable with a similar offering over here.

I did notice they were quoting odds for the French 2nd Division in which a team called Lorient seems to be doing extremely well, so watch out at the end of the season for sharp punters claiming that those bets they placed at the start of the campaign which we fondly imagined were being placed on Leyton Orient in our own Third Division were, in fact, no such thing!

Whilst away I took the opportunity to catch up with a bit of reading - by the way, if you haven't yet managed to read Lance Armstrong's book 'Its Not About The Bike' which ended up winning the William Hill Sports Book of the Year', make sure you put it on your Christmas list as it is a superb read, even for those sceptics who remain to be convinced that any totally 'clean' rider could ever win the Tour de France - and started on the Graham Bradley auto/biography. Called 'The Wayward Lad' and from Greenwater Publishing at some amount of money not actually specified on the cover this book continues the recent trend for racing volumes to be coruscatingly honest and revealing.

Richard Dunwoody and Dick Hern are others who have recently written books of surprising frankness. With Bradley, of course, the question has always been whether some of the more scandalous stories about him were based in any kind of fact - here the much respected Brad gives his side of things and a fascinating read it is. Somewhat churlish though it may seem I have to comment on the annoyingly poor standard of proof reading of this book, though, which has resulted in a series of spelling errors all the way through which only detract from the overall effect. I'm sure this book will be reprinted on a number of occasions and I hope that those responsible will tidy up those un-necessary flaws - such as Tony McCoy's Foreword appearing as Forword.

 Let me urge anyone who enjoys a game of cards to check out 'The Hand I Played' by David Spanier who sadly passed away a few months ago. A charming man who was a real expert on poker and an enthusiastic player of the game this book, published by Oldcastle at £16.99 is a fitting memorial to a very genuine man. You may have watched the Channel 4 series The Gambler, in which an old friend of mine, writer Jonathan Rendall, was allowed to play out every punter's fantasy. He managed to persuade the programme makers to give him £12,000 with which to gamble on anything which took his fancy - with the profits being his to keep.

Jonathan had previously pulled the same scam on a publisher, writing a book about his experiences which may, or may not have been the truth but which made for an entertaining read. Likewise, whilst suspecting some of the scenes were being hammed up for the cameras - what gambler worth his salt would ever buy one hundred pounds worth of scratchcards or try to win on seaside arcade fruit-machines - his efforts to win a few bob whether at the betting shop, casino or racecousre, made for an entertaining few hours' viewing. I appeared in the first of the programmes laying Jonathan a bet at 9/2 that he could make a profit on the enterprise overall. He never turned up to collect any winnings.

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