Playing for Keeps

David Halberstam

Yellow Jersey #8

AMERICANS take their sportswriting seriously. David Halberstam, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, is just one of the many great practitioners of the art of telling a great sports story well operating on the other side of the pond. Playing for Keeps is Halberstam's compelling take on Michael Jordan, the hero of basketball and businessmen. It is more reportage than biography with Halberstam paying due attention to the rise of basketball which was due in no small measure to the rise of Jordan. Halberstam stalks the locker rooms, prowls around the front offices and quietly invades the world of business to paint a convincing portrait of a sport and its hero. This is a story of the sports business and its greatest player, I wrote in the hardback review, and Halberstam tells it with meticulous precision and almost casual brilliance. I can find no reason to change my mind. Yellow Jersey has become

a publisher with a record of unblemished excellence in sports publishing and a selection of its titles is this week's prize for the Opening Lines competition on the back page.

Shooting Sean

Colin Bateman

HarperCollins #6.99

BATEMAN is a stroller in that most difficult of worlds, the land of the comic writer. While other readers laugh out loud without restraint at the latest offering from the latest comic writer, many of us find we can keep the laughter muscle well under control. But Bateman can and does make me laugh. I believe his secret is in the darkness of his comedy. He started with an uncommon verve and originality with Divorcing Jack. But my personal favourite is Of Wee Sweetie Mice and Men, which should be bought for its title alone. Sweetie Mice managed to take the most unlikely setting for a comic caper - the dark days of the Troubles - and marry it with a plot that produced riotous scenes and no little provocative comment. In Shooting Sean one of Bateman's returning heroes, Dan Starkey, is offered the chance to write a biography of film star/ director Sean O'Toole who just happens to be unwittingly

auditioning for a hit list. Bateman scatters his story around Europe with visits to Amsterdam, Belfast, and Amsterdam. Sharp-edged humour with a touch of suspense.

Secrets and Lives:

Middle England Revealed

Mary Loudon

Pan #7

THE most unpromising of premises can make the best of stories. Secrets and Lives is a collection of 46 true stories, in the subjects' own words, taken from years of conversations from the market town of Wantage. Oddly and utterly fascinating.

The Life and Times of A Teaboy

Michael Collins

Phoenix #6.99

One of the more palatable side-effects of the Booker prize is that an author's past works become instantly available. Collins , shortlisted for The Keepers of Truth, now finds a novel written in 1993 is back in circulation. Simply plotted but immensely powerful, Teaboy showed an early promise that was justified.

The Paper Eater

Liz Jensen

Bloomsbury #6.99

Welcome to the island paradise where politics, sex and shopping collide explosively. No, it's not Millport but Atlantica, Jensen's fantasy world of conspicuous consumption. Jensen manages, just, to maintain an original idea and reach a satisfactory conclusion. Clever and engaging.