Words by Jason Cooke
Humanities’ Hallows has been tracking the progress of one of MMU’s most successful authors. David Peace is currently in the UK to promote his latest novel, Red or Dead, and Humanities’ Hallows had the privilege of interviewing David before his event at the National Football Museum, Manchester, as part of the Manchester Literature Festival and in collaboration with MMU’s Football Cluster.
David has already authored several successful novels, including; The Red Riding Quartet, GB84, the on-going Tokyo Trilogy and The Damned United. He resides in Japan with his wife and two children, where he teaches Contemporary Literature at Tokyo University. David studied Creative Writing at MMU and spent 5 years in Manchester, living in Whalley Range, Rusholme and Longsight. His latest instalment follows Liverpool FC managerial legend, Bill Shankly. Shankly transformed Liverpool FC from a struggling second division club, into the champions of Europe, before his shock retirement after 15 years at the helm in 1974.
“It’s good to be back in the UK, reading passages of Red or Deadto an audience,” says David. “This is just another flying visit, however. I’m usually back every summer with the children. We visit my mum and dad in Ossett”. David tells us that his daughter keeps him informed of the reviews of Red or Dead on the Internet. I ask him how his new book has been received so far; “The turnout has been great, but the audience are here for Bill Shankly”. Whilst Shankly is indeed a football legend, I think David might be underestimating his own fan base.
“Being back in Manchester brings back memories”, David says. “I was studying here during the Hacienda years. Manchester Polytechnic (now MMU) encouraged me to write; there were lots of things going on to inspire your creativity.”
Talking about Red or Dead, David says that the opportunity came with a phone call from screenwriter and film producer, Mike Jefferies. Jefferies liked the idea of turning the story of Shankly into a film but David wanted to write the book first, telling Jefferies to wait until he had written the novel. Peace, a Huddersfield Town FC fan, knew of Shankly after Bill was persuaded by Liverpool FC to leave Huddersfield Town FC and join them at Anfield. David put his third instalment of the Tokyo Trilogy on hold and began to get in the mind-set of Bill Shankly. “Bill was an ordinary man doing extraordinary things and I tried to convey his spirit”.
David’s novels are based on fact but have a fictional twist, which had me wondering how he researches the subject. “I usually spend a year researching. I read newspaper articles from the era, watch old footage and talk to people who met the person I’m writing about.” The Damned United, as bigger success as it was, came with controversy. Johnny Giles, a former Leeds United midfielder, was unhappy at how he was portrayed by Peace and took legal action. Peace says, “Some described my writing in The Damned United as controversial, which surprised me given that I’ve written novels involving police corruption and violent crime. I never thought that football would be seen as controversial and I’m sorry that the offended felt the way they did.”
Speaking to David feels like talking to an old friend. His Yorkshire accent, still as strong as ever after many years in Japan, brings with it a warmth and sense of homeliness that perhaps only another Yorkshireman can understand. He speaks highly of his family and it is obvious that he is close to his mum and dad. At the National Football Museum, David mentioned how he would Skype his parents every weekend from Japan, reading the latest chapters of Red or Dead to his dad for approval. This is a man still close to his roots, set deep in Ossett, West Yorkshire.
I ask, “What’s next? Another football manager?”, to which David replies, “Never say never, but my first priority is to finish the third Tokyo book”.
And with that, I was left very much looking forward to the event at the National Football Museum; Up Close with David Peace.
Click here to read a full review of the event at the National Football Museum. You can buy Red or Dead from all the main bookshops and online.