Words by Jason Cooke
As part of the Manchester Literature Festival, author David Peace paid visit to the National Football Museum, Manchester, to talk to Hacienda legend, Dave Haslam, on stage about his latest novel, Red or Dead.
Red or Dead follows the life of Liverpool FC managerial legend, Bill Shankly.
Dave Haslam took to the stage and the evening began with a short film, Bill Shankly- in his own words. The audience was transfixed on the screen– you could hear a pin drop. The tone of the evening was set. Red neon lights shone into the faces of the eager audience as David Peace was introduced by Haslam. Peace provided the audience with a reading fromRed or Dead, ‘in Shankly’s voice’, as David put it, ‘but with a Yorkshire accent.’ Hearing Red or Dead read aloud makes it easier to understand the way in which Peace has written the book. For those who haven’t read the book, Red or Dead is written in a style like no other. Peace repeats words and sentences purposely to enhance the way that Bill Shankly was with his colleagues, the players, and his family–particularly his wife. This style is what makes the book over 700 pages.
Haslam jumped straight in with football, “So David, tell us about Red or Dead, you weren’t a Liverpool FC fan as a child…”, to which Peace replies, “Nor as an adult”. David Peace is a Huddersfield Town FC fan and knew of Bill Shankly due to him being the Huddersfield Town manager from 1956 until 1959 when he was scouted by then Liverpool Chairman, Tom Williams.
Haslam asked Peace if he thinks any Premier League footballers will read the book, to which Peace wittily replied, “Maybe, injured players with a lot of time on their hands!”
After a second reading the audience was invited by Haslam to ask David some questions.
“Would you ever consider writing a book about the Hillsborough disaster?”, one audience member asked. Peace took a deep breath before answering:
–“Short reply, no. I don’t know how I could convey what pain those families will have been through in words, and the story is still unfolding.”
Another question asked whether Peace has thought about writing another book about Brian Clough, this time during his highly successful reign at Nottingham Forrest FC, where Clough won 4 League Cups and 2 consecutive European Cups.
–“I’m surprised it hasn’t been done already! For me, what Clough did at Forrest was the greatest achievement in domestic football. I don’t think I will do it, but someone should!”
Peace carried himself well. The audience was interested in everything he has to say and Dave Haslam, who has clearly read all of Peace’s work, appears to be as fixated as the audience. Peace talked about his family and mentioned how he would video call his parents, reading his latest passages to his father for approval. He is clearly a family man, still in touch with his roots in Yorkshire.
“What’s next? Another football manager?” another audience member asked. “Never say never, but my first priority is to finish the third Tokyo book”.
With that, the evening drew to a close and David signed copies of Red or Dead in the bookstore towards the back of the National Football Museum.
Close Up with David Peace was a sell out, and a great taste of things to come within the Manchester Literature Festival. Click here for a full programme of upcoming events.
Red or Deadis available in all the good bookshops and is a must-read for any football fan.