Monday, 5 April 2010

Amazed by Amazon... two reviews of A GAME APART I thought you might like to read...

DAVID BRYSON, one of the top reviewers on Amazon, has put up this review of my first novel, A GAME APART. He gave it five stars – and touched on a lot of the areas you hope reviewers will when you set out on the publishing journey. Thanks David. There’s also a review from an M Nelson, which I’ve added below.

Please give them both a read and if you’re interested, click through on or search for the book on Amazon... with Eugene Terreblanche’s death over the weekend it’s a fraught time for the World Cup. I hope my words offer some perspective for football fans planning to travel – or those who will simply watch from home. The background to current events in South Africa is far from simple. Years of discrimination and hatred have been put aside in the name of "peace and reconciliation"... bitter outbreaks are bound to occur. As I said yesterday, we can only pray the voices of sanity prevail.

Is this what you would call a novel? At least some of the characters are fictional, although there is probably a strong basis in real life-stories even with these. How close to historical fact the details of the story are I don't know either, but I would guess pretty damn close. This book is more history than anything else. Although the plot line is hung around international football (in America-speak `soccer') don't look for anything here along the lines of Roy of the Rovers. Matches are described with an enthusiast's sense for detail and atmosphere, but one of the things that I like best about the narration is how even these sporting commentaries never lose contact with the basic political thread, the ghastly tale of apartheid in South Africa. I very much doubt that international sport can be separated from global politics. To those who pleaded for that the late James Cameron responded `Go on, just try.' Neal Collins has more sense, however much he loves football for itself he knows what was really important when it was a matter of football in pre-Mandela South Africa, and the games that he describes never become isolated episodes described just for the sake of talking about football.

The fictional element of the plot is very well put together. The hero is of slightly uncertain racial origins, and he is made to grow and develop as he escapes his slag of a mother and his scrubber of an English girlfriend via his secondment to a team in South Africa. There he sees things that he was not meant to see, he finds a woman whom he deserves and who deserves him, but above all he saves his soul by his determination to expose the true filthy reality of the South African regime. This book is strong on atmosphere. It does not just describe the governmental orders and regulations, it takes us right into the heart of the communities affected by them and does not spare us the details of what the suffering was like. Almost more important, because more educative and illuminating, it gets to the heart also of the Afrikaner mentality. Neal Collins puts his finger on the inferiority complex, the chips on shoulders, the defensiveness that uses brutality as an outlet for a sense of insecurity, the contempt for truth, the glorification of ignorance and the fostering of the belief that it does not matter what you do it matters what flag you do it under. It was all so reminiscent of inter-wars Germany, and I think the author says so, perhaps through the mouth of his hero. One parallel that is not explicitly drawn, possibly because there was no need to spell it out, is how the grievances of the Boers, as of the Germans before them, were not imaginary. The Treaty of Versailles was the last word in smug triumphalist stupidity, and the treatment of the Boers by the British was not much better than the viciousness that the humiliated Boers in their turn dished out to who they could dish it out to. Worth remembering whenever we feel inclined to shake our heads in self-righteous piety.

For once, the historian in the author is able to end on a note of not just hope but actual achievement. Whatever the shortcomings of the new South Africa, Mandela's vision and strategy look good by most relevant comparisons. I am not going to be able to attend the World Cup in South Africa, but I shall be following with interest the experiences and reports of those who can make it. Global sport is an increasingly important element in global politics, and this book is a very timely reminder of what happened at a time when South Africa could not have qualified for any such festival of the world's game, (although even in its darkest era rugby continued to sidle through the moral barriers and so would cricket have but for the foolishness of the South African government in the case of d'Oliveira.) We keep hearing pious sentiments about how the Holocaust must never be allowed to happen again, and I wonder in that case what those who express such unexceptionable opinions think happened in Rwanda, Cambodia and Bosnia. It would be ironic if sport can achieve what diplomacy can't, but if it can it should be encouraged to.

I have no hesitation in giving this book 5 stars. Neal Collins is no great literary stylist, but his book scores heavily for the power with which he gets his message across, for the welcome absence of preachiness, and for the admirable sense of timing in publishing it. If I felt even a moment's doubt regarding the fifth star, it was dispelled instantly on finding that the author is a fellow Arsenal supporter.

Somebody called M Nelson added this, shorter review, which is equally satisfiying from my point of view:

A story that instantly captures the irrepressible spirit of the Black nation in South Africa. Their generosity, sense of humour and love of the football game along with the traditions and superstitions of their pride culture is portrayed successfully. The immense atrocities and madness South African people were subjected to by the Apartheid regime is captured and the way the author has condensed some of the atrocities committed, shocks one successfully into realising the fight and tragedy that South Africa has been through to achieve the miraculous Rainbow Nation. The book is not all "doom and gloom" however as the sense of humour and the love of the game of football that is so prevalent in South Africa does successfully shine through. SA deserves to host the World Cup 2010!

Both of these review can be found at For further info, have a look around and for video,

No comments:

Post a Comment