We’ve all read our share of sporting autobiographies but how many athletes went on to demonstrate literary prowess by having a go at fiction writing – and actually got published.
Here’s a few who managed it.
The Kareem of the Crop
You’re a sports star coming to the end of your career and the choices are usually two-fold – go into coaching or the media.
Very few turn their hand to writing, fewer still into the sticky world of fiction writing.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the multi-decorated six-time NBA champion, one of the greatest basketball players of all time, had a go and positively flourished.
The one-time Lakers’ legend has been a prodigious writer ever since he hung up his boots, writing on basketball, civil rights, even kids’ books and then, in 2015, publishing his first novel, Mycroft Holmes, starring Sherlock’s more talented older brother.
So successful was it, he wrote two more to complete a Holmes-ian trilogy which has been critically acclaimed.
A Racing Cert
When it comes to prolific, Abdul-Jabbar would have had to have doffed his hat to the late Dick Francis, the ex-champion jockey and as pilot of Devon Loch, the man who so famously had Grand National glory wrenched from his grasp in 1956.
Francis went on to write crime fiction on a voracious scale, unsurprisingly referring to the world of racing for his subject matter, and finished up with 40 or more internationally-acclaimed best-sellers.
Did You Know…
There are, of course, many famous writers who were indeed proficient sportsmen, though wisely opted to pursue literary careers.
Albert Camus, for example, was the goalie in a French junior football team, Lord Byron played cricket in the first Eton-Harrow game and Samuel Beckett, a left-arm seamer of some repute apparently, appeared twice for Northants. The American Tom Wolfe had a try-out with the then-baseball team, the New York Giants.
And harking back to Sherlock Holmes, the fictional detective’s creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, went on to play ten times for the MCC and famously took the wicket of WG Grace, his one and only first-class wicket.
The Banter Merchants
But we couldn’t talk sportsmen and fiction writing without mentioning football.
Credit in passing to ex-England boss Terry Venables – who co-wrote the book-turned-TV series, Hazell – Frank Lampard and his Frankie’s Magic Football series of children’s books and even Marcus Rashford, whose indifferent form at Manchester United has given him plenty of time to get published The Breakfast Club Adventures: The Beast Beyond the Fence.
Take a bow all three, but the most special of mentions needs to go to ex-Manchester United star Steve Bruce who once famously said, “just because I got a GCE in English, I thought I was going to be the next Dick Francis”.
He wasn’t. But, while manager of Huddersfield it’s believed, he set to work on what would become a trilogy of sought-after football-crime capers called, in order, Striker!, Sweeper!, and Defender!.
“A vexing book,” wrote one critic about Striker!. “On the one hand it is one of the most poorly written books I have ever read, yet it is hugely satisfying.”
Little wonder then that Bruce persevered with the day job.