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Red or Dead

Friday 9 August 2013, 13:49

David Peace David Peace Author

“You’d be hard pushed to find a better man to write about than Bill Shankly.” David Peace [The Damned United, Red Riding Trilogy] talks to us about Red Or Dead, his latest novel about legendary Liverpool Manager Bill Shankly, which is this week’s Book at Bedtime.Red or Dead is this week’s Book at Bedtime. You can listen online from Monday 12 AugustWhy did you choose Bill Shankly?I think it was not so much that I chose Bill Shankly as - and it might sound a bit over romantic or even arrogant to some people –Bill Shankly chose me really. I was a bit tired of contributing to narratives of despair and defeat and I wanted to write a book about a good man for a change. I was struggling to think what kind of book to do and how to write that narrative when a film producer asked would I like to write a film script about the life of Bill Shankly. And before he’d even finished the sentence, I was like, absolutely. But first I need to write a novel. It was as though Bill Shankly had been sat in the room all along - I’d not noticed him. Growing up, I was a Huddersfield Town supporter and Bill Shankly – well before my time – was a manager at Huddersfield Town. My father and grandfather often talked about him. He features in The Damned United as well. In the original first edition, if you take off the cover, he’s there. It felt like something I’d been waiting to write. People might say its hyperbole but you’d be hard pushed to find a better man to write about than Bill Shankly.What do you think it is about Bill Shankly that makes him such an enduring cultural icon?This was a man who changed and transformed people’s lives, whether they were the players or the supporters. He had endless time for ordinary people. You could knock on his door and he would invite you in for a cup of tea. He personally answered all the letters he received. So people have this whole reservoir of stories and memories – folk memories from people on Merseyside - of what this man meant to them and how he changed their lives. Everybody he met, he always thought the best of them, and brought the best out of them. And he always, always treated people equally. And it comes back to the fact that he was a socialist – not in the way that he read a great lot of political literature or theory, but in the way he treated everybody equally, the way that he believed everybody deserved equality of opportunity, that it wasn’t about the individual - that it was about the team, the community, and that everybody worked for each other on the pitch as the team and off the pitch as the club. He represents socialism in its most beautiful and simplest form. Every day of his life, every hour of his life – he lived it with these principles. Shankly said that he was “made for Liverpool.” Could Shankly have achieved greatness anywhere, or was Liverpool essential to making him the man, and the  manager, that he became?As a Huddersfield Town supporter, and being that Huddersfield was the club he left for Liverpool, we Huddersfield Town supporters always think: had our board given him the money to buy Ian Saint John, then Huddersfield Town would have the same legacy and status that Liverpool Football Club still have to this day. But at the risk of alienating and annoying every Huddersfield Town supporter out there, I think in all honesty that Shankly went to Liverpool because he knew that even though Liverpool were in the second division, there was a fervour to the supporters that he felt he could help awaken and that’s what he did. He instinctively knew that this was the city for him. Do you have a soundtrack to get yourself into the atmosphere of a time period and if so, what was it for Red or Dead?When I’m writing, I always try to use the music of the time I’m writing about. Going back to my first book, 1974, I listened to Diamond Dogs by David Bowie over and over again. I think the music of a particular time can help you recapture the language - because language changes all the time. With Red or Dead – it was a little bit more difficult. Bill Shankly himself liked what I might describe as easy listening – Jim Reeves, Pat Boone, Mario Lanza – and I did dutifully go and buy a lot of the music he listened to. To be honest – shall we say – I found it a little bit distracting to listen to it. I’m a huge admirer of Shostakovich and his historical symphonies based on certain years.  That music captured something about the crowd scenes and the football scenes. And Shostakovich himself was a huge football fan – he supported St Petersburg.You mentioned that you were in a band when you were a teenager – what was it called? The Paunchy Cowboys. We recorded a lot of demos in studios in Leeds – we have the demo tapes  -but so far there’s not been the demand to see them digitalised… With Sir Alex Ferguson retiring and Red or Dead covering Bill Shankly’s retirement, can we draw comparisons between the pair?Sir Alex Ferguson was a great admirer of Bill Shankly and there are stories that when Sir Alex Ferguson was at Aberdeen, he used to play tapes of Bill Shankly speaking on the Aberdeen bus – much to the horror of some of the players. I think there is a good comparison between what Sir Alex Ferguson achieved when he was manager of Aberdeen, and what Bill Shankly did when he came to Liverpool. By the time Sir Alex Ferguson goes to Manchester United, you’d need to compare him with Bob Paisley. Manchester United had not been as successful in previous years, but when Bill Shankly went to Liverpool they were in the second division. Manchester United were not in the second division. So it’s more useful to compare Ferguson’s Manchester United period with Paisley at Liverpool. It’s been said that after your 12th book, you’ve threatened to stop writing altogether – is that true? The daft things you say in interviews! I’d written Occupied City, which was my eighth book, and I think I’d written myself into a bit of a corner. As I say, I was looking for a different kind of narrative; a different story. And at that time before Bill Shankly came calling, I did find the thought of four more dark books a bit too much. But the bad news is, I’ve changed my mind. I think there’ll be more books. Sorry.
Red or Dead is this week’s Book at Bedtime. You can listen online from Monday 12 August
Why did you choose Bill Shankly?
I think it was not so much that I chose Bill Shankly as - and it might sound a bit over romantic or even arrogant to some people –Bill Shankly chose me really. I was a bit tired of contributing to narratives of despair and defeat and I wanted to write a book about a good man for a change. I was struggling to think what kind of book to do and how to write that narrative when a film producer asked would I like to write a film script about the life of Bill Shankly. And before he’d even finished the sentence, I was like, absolutely. But first I need to write a novel. It was as though Bill Shankly had been sat in the room all along - I’d not noticed him.
Growing up, I was a Huddersfield Town supporter and Bill Shankly – well before my time – was a manager at Huddersfield Town. My father and grandfather often talked about him. He features in The Damned United as well. In the original first edition, if you take off the cover, he’s there. It felt like something I’d been waiting to write. People might say its hyperbole but you’d be hard pushed to find a better man to write about than Bill Shankly.
What do you think it is about Bill Shankly that makes him such an enduring cultural icon?
This was a man who changed and transformed people’s lives, whether they were the players or the supporters. He had endless time for ordinary people. You could knock on his door and he would invite you in for a cup of tea. He personally answered all the letters he received. So people have this whole reservoir of stories and memories – folk memories from people on Merseyside - of what this man meant to them and how he changed their lives. 
Everybody he met, he always thought the best of them, and brought the best out of them. And he always, always treated people equally. And it comes back to the fact that he was a socialist – not in the way that he read a great lot of political literature or theory, but in the way he treated everybody equally, the way that he believed everybody deserved equality of opportunity, that it wasn’t about the individual - that it was about the team, the community, and that everybody worked for each other on the pitch as the team and off the pitch as the club. He represents socialism in its most beautiful and simplest form. Every day of his life, every hour of his life – he lived it with these principles. 
Shankly said that he was “made for Liverpool.” Could Shankly have achieved greatness anywhere, or was Liverpool essential to making him the man, and the  manager, that he became?
As a Huddersfield Town supporter, and being that Huddersfield was the club he left for Liverpool, we Huddersfield Town supporters always think: had our board given him the money to buy Ian Saint John, then Huddersfield Town would have the same legacy and status that Liverpool Football Club still have to this day.
But at the risk of alienating and annoying every Huddersfield Town supporter out there, I think in all honesty that Shankly went to Liverpool because he knew that even though Liverpool were in the second division, there was a fervour to the supporters that he felt he could help awaken and that’s what he did. He instinctively knew that this was the city for him. 
Do you have a soundtrack to get yourself into the atmosphere of a time period and if so, what was it for Red or Dead?
When I’m writing, I always try to use the music of the time I’m writing about. Going back to my first book, 1974, I listened to Diamond Dogs by David Bowie over and over again. I think the music of a particular time can help you recapture the language - because language changes all the time. With Red or Dead – it was a little bit more difficult. Bill Shankly himself liked what I might describe as easy listening – Jim Reeves, Pat Boone, Mario Lanza – and I did dutifully go and buy a lot of the music he listened to. To be honest – shall we say – I found it a little bit distracting to listen to it. I’m a huge admirer of Shostakovich and his historical symphonies based on certain years.  That music captured something about the crowd scenes and the football scenes. And Shostakovich himself was a huge football fan – he supported St Petersburg.
You mentioned that you were in a band when you were a teenager – what was it called? 
The Paunchy Cowboys. We recorded a lot of demos in studios in Leeds – we have the demo tapes  -but so far there’s not been the demand to see them digitalised… 
With Sir Alex Ferguson retiring and Red or Dead covering Bill Shankly’s retirement, can we draw comparisons between the pair?
Sir Alex Ferguson was a great admirer of Bill Shankly and there are stories that when Sir Alex Ferguson was at Aberdeen, he used to play tapes of Bill Shankly speaking on the Aberdeen bus – much to the horror of some of the players. I think there is a good comparison between what Sir Alex Ferguson achieved when he was manager of Aberdeen, and what Bill Shankly did when he came to Liverpool. By the time Sir Alex Ferguson goes to Manchester United, you’d need to compare him with Bob Paisley. Manchester United had not been as successful in previous years, but when Bill Shankly went to Liverpool they were in the second division. Manchester United were not in the second division. So it’s more useful to compare Ferguson’s Manchester United period with Paisley at Liverpool. 
It’s been said that after your 12th book, you’ve threatened to stop writing altogether – is that true? 
The daft things you say in interviews! I’d written Occupied City, which was my eighth book, and I think I’d written myself into a bit of a corner. As I say, I was looking for a different kind of narrative; a different story. And at that time before Bill Shankly came calling, I did find the thought of four more dark books a bit too much. But the bad news is, I’ve changed my mind. I think there’ll be more books. Sorry.
Listen to Red or Dead

David Peace's Red or Dead is Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime. You can listen to episode 1 of Red or Dead from Monday 12 August

Bill Shankly

Why did you choose Bill Shankly?

I think it was not so much that I chose Bill Shankly as - and it might sound a bit over romantic or even arrogant to some people – Bill Shankly chose me really. I was a bit tired of contributing to narratives of despair and defeat and I wanted to write a book about a good man for a change. I was struggling to think what kind of book to do and how to write that narrative when a film producer asked would I like to write a film script about the life of Bill Shankly. And before he’d even finished the sentence, I was like, absolutely. But first I need to write a novel.

It was as though Bill Shankly had been sat in the room all along - I’d not noticed him. Growing up, I was a Huddersfield Town supporter and Bill Shankly – well before my time – was a manager at Huddersfield Town. My father and grandfather often talked about him. He features in The Damned United as well. In the original first edition, if you take off the cover, he’s there. It felt like something I’d been waiting to write. People might say its hyperbole but you’d be hard pushed to find a better man to write about than Bill Shankly.

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What do you think it is about Bill Shankly that makes him such an enduring cultural icon?

This was a man who changed and transformed people’s lives, whether they were the players or the supporters. He had endless time for ordinary people. You could knock on his door and he would invite you in for a cup of tea. He personally answered all the letters he received. So people have this whole reservoir of stories and memories – folk memories from people on Merseyside - of what this man meant to them and how he changed their lives.

Everybody he met, he always thought the best of them, and brought the best out of them. And he always, always treated people equally. And it comes back to the fact that he was a socialist – not in the way that he read a great lot of political literature or theory, but in the way he treated everybody equally, the way that he believed everybody deserved equality of opportunity, that it wasn’t about the individual - that it was about the team, the community, and that everybody worked for each other on the pitch as the team and off the pitch as the club. He represents socialism in its most beautiful and simplest form.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash Installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content

Shankly's influence begins to take hold on Liverpool Football Club.

Every day of his life, every hour of his life – he lived it with these principles. Shankly said that he was “made for Liverpool.” Could Shankly have achieved greatness anywhere, or was Liverpool essential to making him the man, and the  manager, that he became?

As a Huddersfield Town supporter, and being that Huddersfield was the club he left for Liverpool, we Huddersfield Town supporters always think: had our board given him the money to buy Ian St John, then Huddersfield Town would have the same legacy and status that Liverpool Football Club still have to this day. But at the risk of alienating and annoying every Huddersfield Town supporter out there, I think in all honesty that Shankly went to Liverpool because he knew that even though Liverpool were in the second division, there was a fervour to the supporters that he felt he could help awaken and that’s what he did. He instinctively knew that this was the city for him.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash Installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content

David Peace on his love of football and how it helps him escape when writing crime novels.

Do you have a soundtrack to get yourself into the atmosphere of a time period and if so, what was it for Red or Dead?

When I’m writing, I always try to use the music of the time I’m writing about. Going back to my first book, 1974, I listened to Diamond Dogs by David Bowie over and over again. I think the music of a particular time can help you recapture the language - because language changes all the time. With Red or Dead – it was a little bit more difficult. Bill Shankly himself liked what I might describe as easy listening – Jim Reeves, Pat Boone, Mario Lanza – and I did dutifully go and buy a lot of the music he listened to. To be honest – shall we say – I found it a little bit distracting to listen to it. I’m a huge admirer of Shostakovich and his historical symphonies based on certain years.  That music captured something about the crowd scenes and the football scenes. And Shostakovich himself was a huge football fan – he supported St Petersburg.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash Installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content

David Peace on how poetry of the Russian Revolution was an inspiration for Red or Dead.

You mentioned that you were in a band when you were a teenager – what was it called?

The Paunchy Cowboys. We recorded a lot of demos in studios in Leeds – we have the demo tapes  -but so far there’s not been the demand to see them digitalised…

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash Installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content

David Peace on football and how he hopes Red or Dead will act as a catalyst for change.

With Sir Alex Ferguson retiring and Red or Dead covering Bill Shankly’s retirement, can we draw comparisons between the pair?

Sir Alex Ferguson was a great admirer of Bill Shankly and there are stories that when Sir Alex Ferguson was at Aberdeen, he used to play tapes of Bill Shankly speaking on the Aberdeen bus – much to the horror of some of the players. I think there is a good comparison between what Sir Alex Ferguson achieved when he was manager of Aberdeen, and what Bill Shankly did when he came to Liverpool. By the time Sir Alex Ferguson goes to Manchester United, you’d need to compare him with Bob Paisley. Manchester United had not been as successful in previous years, but when Bill Shankly went to Liverpool they were in the second division. Manchester United were not in the second division. So it’s more useful to compare Ferguson’s Manchester United period with Paisley at Liverpool.

It’s been said that after your 12th book, you’ve threatened to stop writing altogether – is that true?

The daft things you say in interviews! I’d written Occupied City, which was my eighth book, and I think I’d written myself into a bit of a corner. As I say, I was looking for a different kind of narrative; a different story. And at that time before Bill Shankly came calling, I did find the thought of four more dark books a bit too much. But the bad news is, I’ve changed my mind. I think there’ll be more books. Sorry.

Listen to Red or Dead

Comments

Jump to comments pagination
 
  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 1.

    have not read it yet. but can not wait to read it. hop it is not a hatchet job though.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 2.

    should be fascinating, admire David Peace's work, and, as a lifelong LFC fan loved Shanks.
    I'm sure he would have knocked Suarez clean out (Shanks, not David!)

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 3.

    I doubt Shankly could have achieved greatness in football in the current era. All that integrity, down-to-earth straight talking would have no place in todays game which is ruled by money alone.

    Anyone who has watched football over the intervening years can clearly see that football has lost its soul. Those of us who were privileged to see and hear the man and his passion for the game, even if not LFC supporters, will always remember him with something bordering on reverence.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 4.

    3.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 5.

    I'll tell you, David Peace, about writing narratives : "And before he’d even finished the sentence, I was like, absolutely." Sorry, but as soon as I read that, (the "like" bit) I was off. Are you a fourteen year old American girl? Slang based metaphorical exaggerations? See ya laterz. Innit.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 6.

    I've had to give up with it there's no doubt that the content is great but the repetitive style put me off. I couldn't honestly recommend the book to anyone.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 7.

    My copy arrived yesterday and can't wait to get started. The 700 plus pages should prevent me devouring it in one sitting!
    Having been a child of the seventies I've found Peace's previous work has been a useful antidote to the "things were better in the old days" psyche we are all prone to with age, however hopefully this will highlight the joy football brought working class people in those days

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 8.

    Would take issue with his suggestion that the Ferguson/Paisley comparison is more valid - Paisley continued the empire whereas Shankly and Ferguson both built them from the bottom up, and despite the changes in football I still enjoyed Ferguson's team ethic prevailing over the 'teams' put together with purely money and no alchemy or man-management

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 9.

    Terrible author. His "damned united" book was a disgraceful depiction of a great of football. I see he is continuing his tradition of writing about a dead football great so he is in no danger of being sued when it turns out to be filled with lies.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 10.

    At Wembley in 1974 I was standing by the tunnel and Shanks held out his hand and touched as many fans as he could reach, I was one. My hero.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 11.

    bring him back, along with tommy smith and ron yeats, they'll sort the sorry excuse suarez for sure!!!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 12.

    Bill Shankly certainly did treat people equally. I'm not a Liverpool supporter, but I remember vividly him bringing his team to White Hart Lane (just after they'd won the league that year). Ordinary fans called out "Well done, Bill" and stretched out their hands as he came out just before kick-off. He shook as many as he could reach and then someone yelled out something about his Liverpool lads. "They're all pissed!" he growled back, but with a smile on his face. A great man; and a man of the people.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 13.

    Fortunately, we don't have to write the way we speak, so it's foolish to dismiss a fascinating subject for a novel just because of the vocabulary the author uses in response to an interview question. Know warra mean, like?

  • rate this
    -7

    Comment number 14.

    Liverpools trying to hold on to suarez boils down to grosss violation of human rights.the english premiership authoritys should wade into the matter and allow suarez to go where he wants.....any thing outside releasing suarez is criminal hypicritical,and human rights violation.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 15.

    Unusual in football that no-one seems to have much bad to say about him. Remembered with respect and affection by football fans whatever their team. Not many people from that era (or even from more recently) are probably remain as quoted.

    a Better man from a better time for football.

    Not much of a reader, but will make an exception in this case.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 16.

    From the great tradition of magic scottish managers,god like status north of the border along with Mr Stein,Mr Busby and Mr Ferguson , when Celtic won the European Cup he was the only British manager to attend and his words to jock after the game are part of scottish folklore "John you are now immortal" ...still a working class hero, a socialist and a patriot!!!!!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 17.

    amazed that someone comments so negatively re "Damned Utd". It is actually meant to be fiction but thought it was a great book and hope this one as good. Shankly & Clough probably couldn't manage in this environment - or achieve so much- more the pity

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 18.

    I got as far as the second extract and realised that once a year I read a book that repeats itself endlessly. Once a year I feel utterly short changed by the endless repetition. Once a year I want to beat myself to death with a hardback copy of a book because it confuses maddening, gratuitous, unimaginative repetition with artistic style and poetic prose. Once a year I read a book that repeats itself endlessly and short-changes me with repetition and beats my brain to death with maddening, gratuitous unimaginative repetition confused with artistic style and poetic prose. But not this time - thanks for the warning Radio 4. ;-)

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 19.

    'He represents socialism in its most beautiful and simplest form.'

    Why are we subject to this romantic rubbish? Unfortunately Mr Peace will not be able to go and speak to the 39 million who lost their lives in the name of socialism in the then Soviet Union. It does not work, it never has worked, it is not beautiful, it is not simple. Perhaps brutal and selfish might be a better description. Despite that I know what Mr Peace means!

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 20.

    Gerard @14. give it a rest mate, violation of his human rights, its called holding him to a contract, which these days contracts mean nothing

 

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