Red Or Dead by David Peace (3 out of 5)










Thank you to Dustin, my shining star over at Melville House. We have become fast friends and Melville has some truly wonderful, unique voices there that deserve to be heard. A couple of months back, I read 

David Peace is definitely one of those unique voices. He is most known for his Red Riding Quartet. This is a standalone novel in many senses. Definitely a labor of love on Peace’s part, and definitely a doorstop of a novel clocking in around 700 pages. He cares about his main character, he cares about soccer, he cares a lot. The only thing that remains unclear is if the general reading public will care as much. And that’s a shame. It is an all-consuming love affair, and Peace invites you down to watch a match and have some tea with him.

Peace’s subject matter is one Mr. Bill Shankly, a manager of the Liverpool Football Club from 1959 to 1974. He took the club and through nothing short of a miraculous shift in player morale, direct dealings with chairmen, not to mention overall concern for the fans, and managed to be the flight commander behind the rise of the LFC to the top and beyond. The book takes you through the years with Shankly’s rise to the superstar manager he eventually ended up being, the rise of the LFC in general, and Shankly’s eventual retirement. The team eventually gets the dynamic Bob Paisey, who was Shankly’s right hand man through the meteoric rise to fame that was the Liverpool Football Club under Shankly’s patient tutelage. There is nothing that gets by Peace in this novel. That’s why it’s a blessing, and a curse, to the reader. If you wanted to know everything about football, English style, this is your magnum opus. If you wanted a book about about an amazing turnaround by a manager who was as much a fan as it was an occupation, this is your book. If you wanted an inspiring sports story, this is it. If you wanted a quick tale of domination on the playing field, go elsewhere, this is not it.

This is a story of heart and soul and love of the game. Overwhelming love of the game, which Peace recites religiously, sometimes too much so. Meaning, there is a sense when you are reading the novel that you’ve heard, or rather read, this before. There were parts where it seems like Peace has already said things, either later or earlier in the novel. Some places it seems like they are repeated in the same paragraph. That drove me insane. And as I said, this book is quite a mammoth piece of literature. You are instantly drawn into Shankly’s (and Peace’s) passion for the team, the fans, and the sport. That is what kept me reading. I wanted to know how this played out, how it would end or if it would end after Shankly’s retirement, and would Paisley be able to rock out as much as Shankly did? Once you start reading Red Or Dead, there is no stopping. The only thing that may stop one is that it often does feel monotonous and that Peace’s love of the game keeps him from throwing more of a fictional take on it than a superfan’s take on it. This reader has definitely never read a book like this, and I am infinitely glad to have done so.

~ by generationgbooks on June 24, 2014.

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