Duncan Hamilton was today named winner of the CWC Derek Hodgson Book Award for 2020 in a unique moment for the highly-acclaimed author.

His biography of Neville Cardus, The Great Romantic, published by Hodder & Stoughton, was chosen from a shortlist of six by a panel representing the Cricket Writers’ Club.

The news was especially touching for Hamilton – a three-time winner of the William Hill prize – because he lives in the Yorkshire home once owned by Hodgson, the distinguished northern sports writer after whom the award takes its name.

Hodgson told Hamilton that the property was up for sale when he visited for lunch during the course of research a decade or so ago. “A couple of days later, my wife and I put in a bid and we ended up buying the place,” Hamilton said. “I think that made it the most expensive lunch in the whole of history.

“He was a lovely man. I was doing a book with Jonny Bairstow and Derek knew his father, David, so I rang to ask for any memories. We spent about an hour on the phone, he was so helpful, then three days later I heard that he’d died.

“I am always pleased to win prizes because it helps the book you have written, but to win this one is particularly special given the association with Derek. When I was told the news that was the first thing I thought about.”

Hodgson’s long career reporting northern sport incorporated spells at the Daily Express, Daily Star and The Independent. A prolific author strongly associated with Yorkshire cricket, he also served as secretary of the CWC for 18 years and president for another four. He died in 2017, aged 87.

Hamilton’s interest in Cardus stretches back to his boyhood in 1973 when he watched BBC television interviews that John Arlott conducted with the writer famous for his work at the then Manchester Guardian. He started to think about a biography in 2011, beginning work in 2012 and completing the bulk of it by 2017.

“Other projects came up so for about ten years I lived with Neville Cardus,” Hamilton said. “That is what tends to happen when you write about somebody else. I really wanted to get people to read his work for a second time because he is one of those journalists who is quoted but not necessarily read.

“He just had this wonderful way of conveying something about a particular day, which in my case as a boy was perhaps fifty years earlier. But it is still fresh now and that is the thing about Cardus, even if you read it now you can imagine what it was like in the 1920s or 30s.”   

The CWC panel noted that Hamilton not only chronicled the life of Cardus but reinforced his significance in bringing colour and character to what had been largely dry, run-of-play match reports.

Richard Hobson, the panel chair, said: “Duncan must have come close to winning before with his brilliant biography of Larwood but he has taken the prize now in a particularly strong year. Although much has been written by and about Cardus, he found plenty new to say and did so in a manner worthy of the great stylist himself.”

Acknowledging the strength of the competition, the panel decided for the first time to highly commend a second book, The Unforgiven, by Ashley Gray, from Pitch Publishing. Gray tracked down the so-called West Indian ‘rebels’ who toured South Africa in the 1980s to discover the reasons behind the decision to visit, and the long-term consequences. 
Oct 20 2020

CWC Shortlisted Books

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