Roland Perry - Cricket Books

Cricket Books

Perry’s biography of Sir Donald Bradman, The Don, went to the top of the best-seller lists in Australia and had the most positive run of ‘notices’ of all his books in Australia and the UK. Wrote renowned cricket writer, E. W. Swanton in the UK Cricket Magazine: ‘The Don is an unsurpassable record of a phenomenal figure, from Lord’s to the moment of writing, has been, if any man ever has, a victim of his fame.’

The Melbourne Herald Sun wrote: ‘The Don is a sterling biography... it gives a riveting account of many of Bradman’s innings, and one can almost feel the excitement that gripped cricket fans when he strode out to bat.’ Australian Cricket Magazine’s Ken Piesse found the book was ‘a riveting and engrossing account of the life and times of cricket’s mega hero... In a 645-page book, Bradmanlike in research and presentation, Perry provides far more biographical and character detail on The Don and his life than previously published.’ The Sydney Sunday Telegraph’s Peter Lalor said: ‘Perry keeps a compelling pace in the work... The Don always let his cricket do the talking and so does the author. Perry brings to life the various innings with colourful and detailed descriptions of the shots, bowling and fielding... a good read and a handy bench-mark for all the modern hysteria about Brian Lara and Steve Waugh, two fine players whose averages and performances are but a shadow of The Don’s.’

The Sydney Morning Herald critique by Philip Derriman said that the book was ‘well researched, well illustrated and well written... anyone who looks into the book for an informed, readable account of the life of an extraordinary individual who also happened to be a fantastically successful sportsman will be well satisfied.’ The reviewer was critical of Perry not expanding on the religious divide between the Masons and Catholics: ‘Perry’s book does include a personal detail about Sir Donald Bradman, which, as far as I know, has not previously appeared in print—namely that he is a former Freemason. Perry states the fact without comment, although many readers, having heard the stories of friction between Catholics and Mason in Australian cricket in the 1930s and 1940s, are sure to wonder if it was a factor in the lifelong personal rift between Bradman and his Catholic team-mates, Bill O’Reilly and Jack Fingleton.’

UK reviews for The Don were similar to those in Australia. The Blackpool Evening Gazette noted: ‘Perry’s momentous new book on Bradman will become an established classic.’ The Birmingham Post reviewer said: ‘Perry has provided an entertaining, breezily-written book that has drama and pace...(The Don) a book which should be in every cricket library and has some superb photographs and many memorable quotes.’ Total Sports Magazine UK wrote: ‘The Don is a magnificent book. Bradman’s story is wonderfully related by Perry—a monument both to his research and his writing... Perry’s joy in relating his greatest innings is infectious.’

The unfavorable criticism of the book came from Gideon Haigh, an admitted Bradman ‘detractor.’ Haigh, in various guises as a reviewer with Wisden and newspapers, is a long-time critic of Perry. He wrote: ‘the book-shaped object of Roland Perry had “access” and used it mainly unenlightening, and sometimes, tedious effect.’

Perry wrote a biography of Shane Warne: Bold Warnie, after his story on the leg-spin bowler’s dominance of the 1993 Ashes. Bold Warnie was published by Random House in 1998. This was followed by Waugh’s Way: Steve Waugh—learner, leader, legend (Random House 2000); and Captain Australia, A History of the Celebrated Captains of Australian Test Cricket (Random House, 2000).

Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack 2001 said of the Waugh biography: ‘Roland Perry is gloriously readable, always thoughtful. His account embraces all the major controversies, but there is never any question whose side he is on. Perry shows Waugh’s evolution as a cricketer and a captain with solid admiration, but shrewdness too.’

Captain Australia covered every Australian skipper (except for Ricky Ponting) since Test cricket began. Each chapter carried a mini-biography of the 41 leaders. Each reviewer seemed to have a chapter that stood out for them. For The Age, Melbourne ‘the most interesting’ was on the 34th captain, Ian Chappell, entitled Larrikin Leader, which notes cultural and political connections between Chappell, Bob Hawke, the advertising guru John Singleton, 1970s ‘ockerism,’ and the promotion of WSC (World Series Cricket, sponsored by Kerry Packer.) The Herald Sun Melbourne noted: ‘There are some good stories in Captain Australia...The chapter on Greg Chappell gives wonderful insight into the genius of Sir Donald Bradman.’ Cricket magazine Inside Edge wrote: 'The appeal of Captain Australia...will be the detail on captains most of us never saw such as Murdoch, Blackham, Armstrong, Woodfull and Richardson…It’s a valuable addition to our cricketing canon.’ Robin Marlar wrote in The Cricketer International: ‘Perry is a prolific, stylish writer... What lifted this book for me was the 24-page prologue on a fascinating character, Charles Lawrence, the immigrant from England who took on the embryonic Australian establishment and brought the first, if not quite the only team of Aboriginals to England in 1868.’

Gideon Haigh, who himself co-authored a book on the Australian captains, wrote Perry had '...a disquieting tendency to, quite casually, mangle information for no particular reason,’ and ‘...there are assertions who origins are, at least, somewhat elusive.’

Sir Donald Bradman divulged to Perry his world’s best cricket team selection from all cricketers who had played the game since Tests began in 1877 to the end of 2000. The book, Bradman’s Best (Random House) was published simultaneously in Australia and the UK on 12 August 2001 to much fanfare. It was an instant best-seller capturing the imagination of the sporting world. The UK Observer’s Norman Harris noted in his column that the book ‘containing the 11 precious names will be guarded like gold bars.’

Bradman’s selection of just 12 players—seven of them Australians—brought predictable criticism from every direction: contemporary players and their supporters; disgruntled commentators from different countries whose favourite players had been neglected; and the usual round-up of Bradman detractors.

The Guardian UK editorialised with commonsense perspective:

‘Matthew Engel, unconcerned that his batting average is 99.94 lower than the Don’s, has already criticised the composition of the Bradman team in this paper... but no two pundits will ever agree. Bradman allowed his closeness to his teammates to influence his selection; ask a Yorkshireman and it is a fair bet that the entire “dream” team would be from God’s own county; and, as for computers, they will rely on averages, an unreliable arbiter of greatness. Would Spofforth have routed today’s England, or Jessop saved the day with a sparkling hundred? We will never know…’

Perry’s follow up book with summary chapters on Bradman’s selections of his best Ashes teams, Bradman’s Best Ashes Teams—was also published by Random House as was Miller’s Luck, a biography of Australian all-rounder, Keith Miller. The book was published in the UK by Aurum Press, with the title, Keith Miller.

Esteemed cricket historian J Neville Turner said: ‘Miller’s Luck is up there with the great cricket biographies. The sensitive areas are handled with integrity and discretion.’ Ron Reed, leading Australian sports writer, in a syndicated piece for all News Corporation tabloids including the Melbourne Herald Sun wrote: ‘Miller’s Luck is an excellent biography. It’s an honest portrayal of the imperfect human being behind the heroic legend.’ AAP’s Jim Morton wrote: ‘Keith Miller is an enlightening biography of the test all-rounder, who was a cool and carefree match-winner on the field and a playboy philanderer off it.’ Jim Rosenthal in the UK Daily Mail ranked the book as the number one sports book of 2006. The UK Cricket Society named it as the cricket biography of the year and it was short-listed for the Cricket Writers’ book of the Year. Archie Mac on Cricket Web’s book review wrote: ‘This is Roland Perry’s eighth book on cricket, and for my money his best…the result is not just a great cricketing book, but also a complete portrait of a fascinating life.’ David Frith, another persistent critic, writing in The Cricketer magazine, said ‘Unfortunately, Roland Perry’s work here is anything but confidence-inspiring. He is an opportunistic author, Don Bradman, Shane Warne and Steve Waugh being among his previous subjects...'

Martin Williamson in Cricinfo, labelled this book as one of the two worst books of the year, saying it ‘polluted 2006.’ He said that its 'lack of attention to detail made its unsavoury dredging of Miller’s private life even less palable.'

ABC TV’s Australia Story interviewed Perry extensively for a two-part series on Miller, which borrowed heavily from Miller’s Luck. It was broadcast over two nights, 20 and 27 April 2009, and was a ratings success, attracting 1.3 million and 1.8 million viewers respectively. Apart from the author, the documentary featured Jan Beames (the subject’s niece), Miller’s four sons, Bill, Peter, Denis and Bob, and his friends Michael Parkinson and Ian Chappell.

Perry’s 20th book was The Ashes: A Celebration. The Melbourne Age’s Steven Carroll wrote: ‘Having written voluminously before on cricket and cricketers... his knowledge on the game is formidable... he’s an authoritative observer, not shy... and a very entertaining read.’ Kit Galer in the Melbourne Herald Sun wrote: ‘This book serves as an excellent primer for those whose interest in the game was aroused by Australia’s defeat last year .’

Perry’s 22nd book (10th on cricket) was the fourth in a series of five volumes drawn from his years of interviews with Sir Donald Bradman—Bradman’s Invincibles. The Sydney Morning Herald noted: 'This is a wonderful insider’s view of the (1948 Ashes) series... Perry is a good, unpretentious writer and the story he has to tell is one of courage and drama... It is a great Australian yarn.’ Adrian Nesbitt in Sydney’s Sun Herald wrote: ‘Perry paints an excellent background picture of a tour that is remembered by Australians as a triumph over the mother country, often without consideration that England was still bearing the scars of war... Perry creates suspenseful moments, in the dressing-room and on the field... His meticulous approach gives us a great understanding of the subtleties and room for instinct that were Bradman trademarks.’ Teri Louise Kelly in Independent Weekly said, ‘Perry’s work, much like Bradman himself, is head and shoulders above the competition... Bradman’s Invincibles leads the reader into the dusty backrooms, on to windy training pitches and mid-Test; beautifully written and accompanies by excellent photographs.’ David Stanley in Cricket Boundary Magazine commented: ‘Bradman’s Invincibles is required reading for all cricket lovers, particularly those of the younger brigade who may not know much about the players, apart from Bradman, who made up his remarkable team... It is a good read and I recommend it.’ Inside Sport noted: ‘Perry’s prose provides worthwhile insight into the mechanics of Bradman’s mind.’ Neil Harvey, one the Invincibles stars, said: ‘I found it a very entertaining read. It brought memories flooding back.’

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