The cricket novel was becoming a sadly neglected and often overlooked genre of fiction. Until recently the sport that we love with all of its complexities and technical nuances had not always found its literary niche. However hope and salvation has been offered to avid fans in recent times, notably by several tomes including Joseph O’Neill’s “Netherland” and Jennie Walker's “24 for 3”, perhaps indicating that the great game has once again reclaimed its rightful place among the bookshelves of contemporary fiction.
In this rekindling fire sparks a new and exciting modern novel entitled "Guile and Spin", by former professional psychologist Stuart Larner. It combines the subtle sporting acumen and its psychological underpinnings.
This modern cricket novel is set in the present day recession in Northern England, and is the first cricket book ever to feature a woman cricketer as the heroine and a man who doesn’t like cricket as the hero.
The story is recounted by Jeremy, a council sports centre manager, who is told by his boss that he must resurrect an extinct village cricket club in order to obtain government money to save the crumbling sports and leisure service. He is helped by the woman cricketer Claire and by a Sikh coach, Fardeep Singh. In a manner reminiscent of “The Magnificent Seven” Jeremy takes to the streets to recruit players by dropping into a garage, visiting a man who runs a cricket museum in his spare room, and approaching groups of bored lads on street corners. Singh teaches Jeremy how to develop his mind to control his reactions in the zone.
These interesting passages are reflective of the author’s background as a clinical psychologist. The writing is always engaging, simple, and clear. The plot and characterisation is well-structured. The end has unexpected spin and a woman’s guile.
Reviewed by Tim Robbins.