Australian writer Geoff Lemon was last night named the winner of The 2019 Cricket Society and MCC Book of the Year Award, presented in a packed Long Room at Lord’s, for his book, Steve Smith’s Men: Behind Australian Cricket’s Fall.
Chair of Judges Robert Winder praised the book’s combination of immediacy and depth and its breathless but authoritative style.
Geoff accepted his shortlisting and winner’s certificates, and the prize of £3,000, after an Oscars-style countdown in the Long Room at Lord’s. The event was attended by MCC and Cricket Society Members and officers, authors, their publishers and guest cricketing journalists and writers. Each of the shortlisted authors spoke about their work.
A delighted Geoff spoke about writing the book over a three-month period of sixteen hour days after having gone to South Africa “in case something happens”.
Robert Winder surveyed the books considered by the judges, spoke about this year’s challenging discussions before first the shortlist and then the winner were chosen, and commented in detail on each of the six finalists. He noted that many of the year’s books dwelt on the subject of sportsmanship and fair play, which made Geoff Lemon’s book a worthy and significant winner - proof that even today cricket can be something more than just a game.
He praised the winning book as a “witty page turner that showed how a dramatic cricket scandal triggered a bout of national soul-searching in Australia”. In a keynote address, writer Simon Lister paid tribute to the legendary sports journalist Frank Keating for his generosity and encouragement.
The award is highly regarded by writers and publishers. A previous winner, former Wisden editor Scyld Berry, hailed his award as “cricket’s seal of literary approval.” This year, Mihir Bose was “honoured to be shortlisted for the award which I think is the greatest of all cricket awards”.
The six books on the shortlist (alphabetically by author) were:
• Moeen, Moeen Ali with Mihir Bose, Allen and Unwin
• On Cricket, Mike Brearley, Constable
• Arlott, Swanton and the Soul of English Cricket, Stephen Fay and David Kynaston, Bloomsbury
• Steve Smith’s Men, Behind Australian Cricket’s Fall, Geoff Lemon, Hardie Grant
• Ambassadors of Goodwill: MCC Tours 1946/47 – 1970/71, Mark Peel, Pitch Publishing
• England, The Biography: The Story of English Cricket, Simon Wilde, Simon and Schuster
A longlist of eighteen books from those nominated by either Cricket Society or MCC Members, and not publishers, were whittled down to six by a panel of judges chaired by writer Robert Winder. The other judges are Mike Selvey, John Symons and Chris Lowe.