Im not sure who first said that everybody has a book in them, but if he or she is correct then take my advice and have
it surgically removed as soon as possible. The fact is that books are difficult things to do. As it happens, Ive done several and each one has been more painful to produce than childbirth. Im a bloke so I can say this sort of thing, though whether I can get away with it is another thing altogether.
Anyway, I was reminded of how hard this book writing lark is when I sat down to lunch the other day and discovered to my joy that the guy next to me was Roddy Bloomfield, who also happens to have been the editor of my first book, Bernhard Langers life story. This was 22 years ago and I probably would never have completed it had it not been for Roddys patient encouragement.
But then, he is the most experienced and canny sports book commissioner/editor in the land. If he includes a couple of my efforts, Roddy has been responsible for over 1,000 of the more relevant sports titles to hit an unsuspecting Britishpublic and of these 65 have been about golf or golfers.
The first golf book he did, Practical Golf by John Jacobs, was also one of the most successful, and the last one was Darren Clarkes Golf The Mind Factor. Thesetwo alone have sold hundreds of thousands of copies. But the first book Roddy was responsible for was Fire In My Boots, the story of Celtic footballing hero Jimmy Johnstone.
Since then Roddy has moved through the sports literary world a neat oxymoron youll agree with all the easy charm that comes so easily to an Old Harrovian who read modern history at Oxford.
A keen sportsman himself, he played almost every sport known to man and is still attached to golf. He plays at Sunningdale off a decent handicap, despite not taking to the old game until he felt he no longer had the stamina or desire to pleasure himself with running sports. And, like his books, he is full of stories. I have two particular favourites.
Some time ago Yellow Pages ran a TV ad that featured a pleasant, elderly and entirely fictional gentleman called J R Hartley who was desperate to find a copy of a book he had written on fly fishing many years before. Roddy saw an opportunity immediately. In very quick order J R Hartleys fishing book was in the shops, and just as swiftly it became a bestseller. Norman Lumsden, the actor who played Hartley, was delighted so delighted he convinced himself he had actually written it.
A year or so later J R returned to the screen, played again by the increasingly elderly Lumsden. In this ad his doctor told him his knees were shot after too much time spent in water, and he suggested he gave up fly-fishing and took up golf. No one was more delighted with this new angle than Roddy, and weeks later J R Hartleys golf book came out. Another bestseller. There are still people who think Hartley is a real person.
Then there was the Tony Jacklin instructional book penned by my predecessor, and infinite superior, at The Observer, Peter Dobereiner. Roddy queried one of the tips in which Jacko suggested swinging a bucket half full of water would hugely help tempo. Get it right, said Tony, and not a drop will spill, but get it wrong and you will end up very wet.
Is that really possible, wondered Roddy? Dobers insisted it was and to prove it he rang Jacklin in Spain and explained that the editor was doubtful. Jackos response was instant and impressive. While Peter and Roddy listened in London he went and half-filled the bucket.
Right, he shouted into a phone eventually. Ive got the bucket and Im swinging it back now.
The next thing heard over the line was the unmistakable slosh of a lot of water exiting a bucket and, soon after, came the equally unmistakeable sound of Tony Jacklin falling about laughing.
There is lots more where these tales come from and so Roddy Bloomfield is at last considering writing his own book. I look forward to it hugely, so much so I even suggested a title to him. How about, I said, calling it A Life Spent Trying to Turn Over A New Leaf?
Its typical of this extremely nice man that he had the good grace to pretend to titter.