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Red or Dead by David Peace
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Red or Dead

by David Peace

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Showing 4 of 4
This was the first book I read by David Peace. Pretty much all of his works are on my to-read list for one reason or another, but I figured this would be a good one to start with because its subject matter -- the life and career of Liverpool FC manager Bill Shankly -- would probably be less grim than that of the Red Riding quartet, which was the first of his works to attract my attention.

Well, that assessment was correct. This is definitely not a grim book, but it requires determination of a different kind to get through. Peace meticulously layers small, repetitive statements to build up a portrait of Shankly that a review in the Independent described as resembling a pointillist painting. For this reason, it might be better for faster readers who can skim; once I got into the rhythm I could spot some of the really repetitive bits, such as the training sessions at Melwood, and skip ahead to the next event. And it did take a bit of time to settle into the rhythm. But once I did, it was almost hypnotic and pulled me right along.

The ideal reader of this book, then, is someone who doesn't mind getting stuck in a book for a while, and is familiar with at least the basic rules of soccer. Knowledge of the Byzantine association football system of cups and leagues might also help but is not a prerequisite. The book contains a bibliography at the back that may be of assistance, and of course the Internet can also help. Also, for what it's worth, I found this easier to read in the trade paperback edition (I started out with hardcover and switched to a different copy). More comfortable to hold, and the page dimensions feel smaller.

Those who have already read The Damned Utd (or seen the movie) might like this book, but be prepared for the long haul. ( )
1 vote rabbitprincess | Feb 21, 2015 |
The Damned Utd was a fascinating and extraordinary book, even though I never did and still don't like Brian Clough. So it perhaps says something that I gave up on Red or Dead before Liverpool have won their first championship, despite the fact that I am a true devotee of the cult of Shankly. It was Bill Shankly who made me interested in football in the first place, it was Liverpool I followed, the Kop I stood on to watch them many, many times. I've long ago fallen out of love with football, but the memory of Shankly still holds a place in my heart. So I was extremely disappointed in this book. The thing about Bill was, the thing that made so many people love him, was his voice, that gruff, staccato, tough but yet kindly voice, always ready with a bit of quick fire wit. And in this book that voice did not come across to me at all. It is lost, drowned in the endless, endless repetition. Shankly was a lively man, full of energy and life, and the rebarbative style kills all the life in the story, rendering it boring and flat. As a writing exercise for a short story, even a short story about Shankly, the style could have been interesting and effective, but over 700 pages it just gets tedious. And just to add insult to injury, Peace omits some of Shanks' best lines ("Come and walk round him") and for a book whelmed in unnecessary statistical detail I spotted a couple of mistakes. ( )
  sloopjonb | Oct 15, 2014 |
Well, we can't say he didn't warn us. 'Repetition. Repetition. Repetition.' Those are the first three words of David's Peace's novel on Bill Shankly's years as manager of Liverpool FC (or 'Liverpool Football Club' as Peace reiterates throughout) and repetition is what we are given on every one of the 700-odd pages that follow. Relentless. Relentless. Relentless. It's a style that has divided critics, and has divided this critic. Even while I'm writing this review I'm still trying to work out what I feel about the experience, and what I should say about it.

I could say the novel is powerful and brilliant. It drills into us, injects into our mainstream the Shankly obsession with the team and the unbearable tension that inevitably accompanies it. The unadorned accounts of match after match, entirely stripped of verbiage and sporting cliché, are insistent drumbeats on the brain. The repeated step-by-step descriptions of Shankly's domestic chores - laying the kitchen table, washing the car - are written and read at the nerve ends. Ness, the placidly inscrutable wife in the background, and the daughters - never present, always somewhere else - underscore Bill's constant isolation. Other characters - the board of directors, fellow managers, players, specific fans - exist chiefly to show what Bill is not (guileful, worldly) or to emphasise his difference even where he is at his most influential - somehow standing outside even when he seems at his happiest and most absorbed in the first half of the book when he is working; an ambiguous state, a strangely parallel existence which is both a stark contrast and a prefiguration of his more obvious isolation in the second half, standing alone in corridors outside dressing rooms after his ill-judged retirement. The diction throughout is near-biblical, lifting and sanctifying, with a distant roll of morality like coming thunder.

I could say the reading experience in detail is tedious and wearing. I could say that the second half of the book - which uses entire transcripts of long radio and television interviews including a broadcast conversation between Bill Shankly and then-Prime Minister Harold Wilson - represents lazy editing, merely the author importing his research material wholesale into the novel. I want to argue myself out of those propositions, insist that the gestalt is the potent brew and no ingredient can be changed or modified. But I have no way of knowing whether that is true: the book is what it is.

Would I recommend it? Absolutely yes. But don't say I didn't warn you. ( )
2 vote Davidgnp | Oct 9, 2013 |
Showing 4 of 4
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Repetition. Repetition. Repetition.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 057128065X, Hardcover)

In 1959, Liverpool Football Club were in the Second Division. Liverpool Football Club had never won the FA Cup. Fifteen seasons later, Liverpool Football Club had won three League titles, two FA Cups and the UEFA Cup. Liverpool Football Club had become the most consistently successful team in England. And the most passionately supported club. Their manager was revered as a god. Destined for immortality. Their manager was Bill Shankly. His job was his life. His life was football. His football a form of socialism. Bill Shankly inspired people. Bill Shankly transformed people. The players and the supporters. His legacy would reveberate through the ages. In 1974, Liverpool Football Club and Bill Shankly stood on the verge of even greater success. In England and in Europe. But in 1974, Bill Shankly shocked Liverpool and football. Bill Shankly resigned. Bill Shankly retired. Red or Dead is the story of the rise of Liverpool Football Club and Bill Shankly. And the story of the retirement of Bill Shankly. Of one man and his work. And of the man after that work. A man in two halves. Home and away. Red or dead.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:02 -0400)

In 1959, Liverpool Football Club were in the Second Division. Liverpool Football Club had never won the FA Cup. Fifteen seasons later, Liverpool Football Club had won three League titles, two FA Cups and the UEFA Cup. Liverpool Football Club had become the most consistently successful team in England. And the most passionately supported club. Their manager was revered as a god. Destined for immortality. Their manager was Bill Shankly. His job was his life. His life was football. His football a form of socialism. Bill Shankly inspired people. Bill Shankly transformed people. The players and the supporters. His legacy would reveberate through the ages. In 1974, Liverpool Football Club and Bill Shankly stood on the verge of even greater success. In England and in Europe. But in 1974, Bill Shankly shocked Liverpool and football. Bill Shankly resigned. Bill Shankly retired. Red or Dead is the story of the rise of Liverpool Football Club and Bill Shankly. And the story of the retirement of Bill Shankly. Of one man and his work. And of the man after that work. A man in two halves. Home and away. Red or dead.… (more)

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