Despite the multitude of football books published during the course of the past ten years, few have ventured outside the territory of non-fiction. As with films, it seems that football does not make an easy subject for writers of fiction. Which, considering that the Americans manage to write books making golf and baseball seem interesting, is surprising to say the least.
The truth most probably is that publishers may be wary of putting money in a genre of books for which there may or may not be a market. Club histories, biographies or books about fan culture are a much safer bet and therefore make it to the bookstores. In turn this sends out signals to prospective writers that it is better to follow the beaten path.
Appropriate therefore, that the one recent attempt at football fiction should be a self-published effort. Having come across all sorts of difficulties in getting his book accepted by an established publisher, Paul Davidson had enough faith in 'Oh, Hec!' to take the initiative of publishing it himself.
'Oh Hec!' tells the story of Hector Blenkinsop, a groundhopper who's only ambition in life is to visit as many grounds as possible, preferably ones in remote and obscure locations. Unfortunately for him, he is not only a sad person but also a very unlucky one. It is this combination which ensures that each trip ends in a misadventure.
This latest attempt at a football novel is a good effort that chooses its topic carefully. Thankfully it avoids the normal cliché for its genre, that of going down the Roy of Rovers' route and this increases its novelty value. Perhaps too much so because it occasionally seems that the author has run out of ideas.
In fact, after a very good start subsequent stories struggle to catch your imagination. There are instances when the impression is that the author took real-life experiences and dressed them up a little so as too make them a little more appealing. Hector's trip to America, for instance, is recounted in much more detail than necessary, making it seem like a travel diary.
Fortunately, even though the book does follow a storyline, each chapter can be read separately. Meaning that one can easily skip a chapter if it isn't to one's liking. Which is a bonus, particularly since the stories pick up once again after the first five or six chapters and become increasingly enthralling as the book progresses.
Davidson has a flair for coming up with improbable tales and making them seem believable. In fact, the more detached from reality they are the better they seem to get.
The final word must be about the front cover of the book which is one of the most impressive I've ever seen. It is the sort of cover that makes you pick up and buy a book even if you don't really know what it is about.
Oh Hec! is a Fourth Base Publication and costs £6.99. Further details on how to buy it can be found at www.fourthbase.co.uk.