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The Crew
Dougie Brimson (Mainstream 1999, £9.99)
As some of you are already aware, Dougie Brimson, author and Watford supporter, has been absent off the WML, writing his new book "The Crew". Recently published, "The Crew" is a fictional account of football hooliganism, which marks a departure from his previous "factual" books - written with his brother Eddy - on the subject. It is similar, in that like "Everywhere we Go", "Capital Punishment", "Derby Days", and "The Geezer's Guide to Football", the book is both exciting, disturbing and "unputdownable".

The plot is built around a forthcoming England match in Italy with a "super-crew" of hardnut hooligans organised by the leader of the main West Ham firm, the fictional "Cockney Suicide Squad". The main man - Billy Evans - has become target number one for Paul Jarvis of the National Football Intelligence Unit - the police unit charged with fighting football hooliganism.

Jarvis is determined to put Evans away and is prepared to resort to any methods to do so, including coercion, undercover placement, surveillance and speculative investigation. In short, Jarvis's pursuit of Evans is entirely personal. The reasons are provided by the murder of a police officer beaten to death during an "off" - described early in the book.

Football hooligans from the usual sources feature throughout the story, including Birmingham, Chelsea, Leeds, Millwall and West Ham - surprise there is no Watford element, but then again we aren't known as the "family club" for nothing. In particular, Brimson has created a fictional Birmingham City mob the "Selector", who are well organised and extremely violent. The Selector are involved in a set-to with a London firm and the violence is extremely graphically portrayed. The leader of the Selector, Gary Fitchett, plays a key role as the story unfolds.

For those who have read Dougie and Eddy's earlier works, which capture English hooliganism at its worst, expect the same in "The Crew". The violence is graphic and explicit, in short this in not a book for those who are offended by violence or bad language. Like the scariest fair ground rides, this book could hit you in the pit of your stomach - so avoid reading after a big lunch.

It is interesting to note that the Crew, is "inspired" by LLP, a Lynda La Plante company. The book reads as if it may be adapted for a later TV or film drama. In which case it is well worth reading the plot now as no doubt when "The Crew" is adapted and screened it is going to cause a lot of public debate.

Retailing for 9.99, the Crew provides good value with a rip-roaring read. The scenes are painted extremely well and the characters are believable. The main hooligans are large and leery with an air of menace and violence hanging over them. The police are hard working, honest toilers with an affinity for canteen food. The image Dougie presents of the NFIU police officers indicates that intelligence is a misnomer. The conclusion though may leave readers confused about whether hooliganism will ever be driven out of the English game and the role of undercover policing. Dougie has provided plenty of food for thought.

PS. If you want another reason to buy this book read the acknowledgements - "And to all the players, staff and fans of Watford Football Club. Back where we belong at last". Top man.

Peter Wilson