Red or Dead

I have not read any of the writing by David Peace, yet, although it isn’t for a want of trying. I did see ‘The Damned United‘ the TV film of his story about the time Brian Untitled Clough became and then was the manager of Leeds United. I have bought another of his books from the Red Riding Trilogy, Nineteen Seventy-Seven, as a paperback but thought I would wait to read it until I had read the precursor which I bought on my old Sony Reader but, unfortunately, it died before I was able to read anything.

Last week he was in Leeds at Waterstones bookshop for a reading and signing for his new book. The picture below shows the book lined up waiting to be bought. I had read a less than complimentary review of the book in When Saturday Comes and an interesting excerpt from it in the magazine in the Times last Saturday so I was interested to hear the author read it and to hear the questions.

I arrived and got a complimentary glass Red or Deadof wine and bought my copy of the book. The room started to fill up (as seen a couple of pictures below) and there must have been over a hundred people present when David Peace, Anthony Clavane and someone else called, I think Bob, who was the MC, entered.

David Peace (pictured below) read first from a piece in his book about Bill Shankly ringing Don Revie up the night before the Liverpool – Leeds match in 1965 and then about the match.

Then Anthony Clavane started asking questions and the first one became a discussion of the pronunciation of the surname of the former Leeds manager Don Revie. Was it Reeeeeevie or Don Revie, with a very short e. A straw poll of the Leeds audience had it as the short e. He picked up on the fact there was a friendship between the managers in the sixties and seventies, that they would call each other up, sometimes not to the best Red or Dead interest of the players when the managers agreed to keep down the wages of players.

Anthony Clavane then asked David Peace why, as two of the managers of the greater teams of the time, he thought there now was a positive view of Shankly’s time but a negative one of Revie.  The answer given was that Don Revie was uncomfortable with the media whereas Bill Shankly would practise one-liners in front of the mirror until he had got the quote well-formed.

Anthony Cleavane then read from his book, Red or Dead ‘Does Your Rabi know you’re here?’. His excerpt was about trying to play football with his schoolmates  when the headteacher would confiscate whatever they were using for a ball and tell them that  their playing football would end up with them being secular. David Peace asked if he had ever considered writing this, or his previous book ‘Promised Land: The reinvention of Leeds United’ as novels. He replied (pictured above) that the earlier one had become a play and there then was a discussion about the line between fiction and non-fiction and how people seem more comfortable with this in America and Norman Mailer, with his fictionalised accounts of Marilyn Monroe and Gary Gilmore were given as examples.

David Red or Dead Peace then said that he had sent the draft of this book to people from LFC websites and one of the people came back and said, ‘would it be OK to send some suggested corrections?’ He said OK and received back 6 foolscap pages of corrections!

Anthony Clavane then asked about both the subject of David Peaces’ books, Brian Clough and Bill Shankly were socialists to which David Peace says that it brought him onto his second reading. The first half of the book is about Bill Shankly’s time at Liverpool and the second half is his life after he retired. This one, chapter 82 of 90, was about him listening to the 1979 Charity Shield at home on the radio then being interviewed by the local radio in Liverpool on the result, Liverpool won 3 – 1, and then talking with some youngsters who knock on his door for a game of football.

Afterwards David Peace(DP) got a question asking if he had a view about the premature retirement of Bill Shankly and it was something he said he had been intrigued by Shankly’s resignation and  his own autobiography is ambiguous on the matter. We’ll never really know. David Peace suggested that it could have been sheer exhaustion as Shankly had carried the club for more than a decade and his wife was not well.  Anthony Clavane said he was fascinated that he did it at 60 when you consider Alex Ferguson has only just done it at 72 and went on to say that Liverpool treated Shankly shabbily. He then contrasted the way Don Revie had not built a succession at Leeds whereas Bill Shankly had managed the transition of his first team into their successors whilst maintaining their success. DP said this was too simplistic a view of what happened and that Shankly was offered money and directorships and that he had wanted Jack Charlton to succeed him and not Bob Paisley yet there is a picture of the celebrations after Liverpool won the 1981 European Cup and Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley are at the bar chatting. He was offered lots of other jobs, including managerial jobs, but didn’t take them, he probably didn’t want to do anything other than manage Liverpool. Red or Dead

The next question was about the amount of repetition in the writing, the person asking had difficulty with it before. DP said it was just as well his publishers were not there as he could say to look at the book before you buy it. When he started he wanted to write about the resignation and retirement of Bill Shankly but come to the view that he couldn’t do so without talking about his achievement, this was the man’s life. DP wanted it to be a lived experience, that by the time you get to his retirement  you have experienced the sacrifice managers at thins time made for these clubs. Bill Shankly trained every day for 15 years, just writing that doesn’t give the impression of what was involved.

Why are there no photos in a book over 700 pages long. DP said there had been an intention but it didn’t happen for various reasons but he did use photos as a reference when writing the book.

There was then a question about socialism in football and whether, with the retirement of Sir Alex, there is an openning for someone. AC said that he also taught in Barnsley  and has worked with pupils and the local school and that it is to be found in places like that where the football club is at the heart of the local community. DP said that Shankley’s socialism had come from the Kop, from the people.  He also talked about how inspiring he found what Bill Shankly had done, that he hoped the book was not just a lament but would serve as an inspiration.

There was then a question to Anthony Clavane about the role of football in secularising the Jewish community to which he talked about the integration of people into the city and country, people came to Leeds and became part of it. This led into a discussion of the incident in Leeds where their then two players  were involved in a situation with racist overtones outside a nightclub. From the floor it was suggested that lee Bowyer, one of those involved in the nightclub incident, and a current Liverpool player (Well when this is being written) Luis Suarez both show sociopathic tendencies.

DP then talked about being in Liverpool to film a piece for the book and the recording took place at the Albert Dock and there were a group of 14 year olds hanging around, asking questions about what was happening and then trying to get into the 20130812_233546[1] picture once they knew what it was. After filming he had talked to them and a few said their father or grandfather had talked about Bill Shankly. Then one kid said he had been to see Liverpool  Anfield and the others said it was true he had.  It was posed what this said about the current state of football if only one of a group of Liverpool teenagers has got to see the team?

It was suggested that Geoff Boycott might be suitable as a subject for a future work by David Peace to which he joked about his style being perfect, “ball comes down wicket, ball comes down wicket….” So what comes next them he was asked. The reply was that he wanted to finish the third of the Tokyo trilogy then that in writing this book, and other work he had touched upon Harold Wilson and he seemed to say that he would be interested in doing something on it.

Anthony Clavane was asked about whether he had experience anti-Semitism to which he replied that he was punched once on the kop at Elland Road but not really. When Leeds were doing badly when Billy Bremner was the manager the chairman was Jewish and there was some then but it disappeared as soon as they became successful. In Yorkshire when there is any anti-Semitism it tend to be directed at Leeds but the situation with racism and anti-Semitism now is totally different and it is just not acceptable.

There was a question about whether the panel had optimism for socialism to which DP talked about how a biography of Burns was a bible to Bill Shankly and that was where he had got it from and he saw it in the kop, in the Liverpool team. There was nothing similar there now and it was part of the motivation for DP to write the book.

20130812_233534[1] Someone from the floor asked about whether there would be any inaccuracies in the book, that Peter Lorimer had definitely scored the goal in 1965.(Presumed to be a reference to the Damned United) AC said that the film of that book had more inaccuracies. DP said that people had picked him for having Brian Clough refer to Hartlepools whereas he grew up there and it was how people talked about it at the time. He also had not seen the film properly.

The final question asked DP whether all the books were imagined out of his head or did they come another way? He went back to the piece he had read. The all from the journalist about the Charity Shield really did happen and was printed in the paper the following day but the conversation between Bill Shankly and the children after came from his imagination, helping him to fill out the scene and paint a picture of what was being said.

I joined a long Red or Dead queue to get my copy of the book, purchased that night, signed. When I got to David Peace and was chatting with him as he did it I asked him about something I had read that weekend. Like me he was a teacher of English as a Foreign language, for him it was in Istanbul and  Japan. I asked what he liked about the work and he said that it was the people and then talked some more about it. I left thinking what a nice genuine human being he was, no rush through and get your autograph but he wrote something more and took time to talk to me. I have posted a copy of the monograph above.

UPDATE: This was edited on 20th August to correct a mispelling of Bill Shankly’s name.

One Response to “Red or Dead”

  1. Gideon Mack Says:

    Good post – enjoyed reading it.

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