May 10, 2011

SB Book Review: Stuart Pettman ‘As Sometimes Seen on TV’: Bad Hair, Great Book.

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:50 pm

.....and now for something completely different.

I first became aware that Stuart Pettman was penning his memoirs over a year ago through his diary entries on Pro Snooker Blog. I, like everyone else, had a one word question that immediately sprang to mind when hearing this, namely; Why?

The answer to my question is contained in ‘As Sometimes Seen on TV’. The graphics on the front cover as well as the title giving some clue as to the tone of a great deal of the book. The writing reminds me very much of the opening captions of ‘The Goodies’ or the ‘Dick Emery Show’; madcap UK comedy shows from when I was growing up as a small child featuring all manner of strange situations and larger than life characters, there you have the premise for the book.

I will say immediately that anyone that is interested in the upbringing and snooker career of the Preston Potter will be disappointed, for this is not an autobiography. Most of the book is written from the perspective of a ‘fly on the wall’, a person who, though trying to make a living from snooker is involved in some crazy situations, in particular when he is attending events abroad, but has a natural ability to see the total lunacy of them.

The first lines of the foreward by his friend and co-writer Graeme Kay is indicative of the tone of the book. When embarking on a taxi ride in Egypt one day Graeme was picked up by a taxi driver who said in passing that he’d been watching the snooker on TV, when enquiring who had been playing, the driver simply said ‘Mark Williams against some crap bloke’, and there enters Stuart.

He takes us through the trials and tribulations of running the Elite Snooker Club in Preston, which he co-runs with Shokat Ali, who seems to have a rather different view of business to Stuart, even to the point where the supply of biscuits to the club’s veteran team results in a major diplomatic incident.

He also takes us through what it’s like to play at the qualifiers, both winning and losing. Perhaps the book can be mildly criticised at times for it’s narrative account of individual frames that nobody but the two players will have watched, but this is a trivial point in the bigger picture, which gives, as far as I can see the very first account of what it is actually like to be a professional snooker player trying to earn a crust, just like the rest of us.

At one point in the book Stuart uses an analogy of snooker being like sex, but not in the time honoured way as a newly sexed up Judd Trump may describe potting long reds at the Crucible. No, for Stuart he compares losing a qualifying match to sex, in that you suffer an almost biological loss of interest in the event as soon as it is over, grab your equipment and head for the car park.

Indeed, self depreciative humour is a tone that pervades the book, even when one well meaning ‘friend’ at one point commiserates with Stuart for drawing Ding Junhui in the World Championship saying simply ‘unlucky’, before digging the hole that bit deeper to tell Stuart, presumably with his welfare at heart that he wouldn’t like to see him ‘humiliated’, which in the end is not far from what happened.

As well as the anecdotes including practice sessions with Dave Harold on a table levelled using beermats and a laugh out loud moment relating to a speech Tony Drago made at the players meeting with Barry Hearn before his coronation, Stuart has very detailed insights into all things snooker related. He covers almost everything and has an encyclopedic knowledge of the actual snooker table itself and why it is so difficult to replicate venue tables in practice. He takes great care not to patronise the reader by assuming they know nothing. It is clearly a book for a snooker fan, I’d go as far as to say I think it’s an essential for anyone interested in snooker who can see the funny side of life.

My inspiration for this blog, as well as a love for snooker was to bring a bit of life and fun back into the sport. In an age where sports people can take themselves incredibly seriously, I like the fact that by and large, snooker folk tend to find the time to step back and say ‘it’s only a game’. I think this book does just that and if I didn’t know better I’d have assumed I’d written it, though that is obviously just wishful thinking as it is superbly put together and far better than this tripe.

Other benefits? It’s not expensive and the content more than gives value for money. It’s £8.99 plus £2.50 postage or £3.50 to post outside the UK. It won a Willie for Baize Book of the Year even after I’d only read half of it, after reading the other half I can only rubberstamp that. Buy it, read it and if you don’t like it you can’t have your money back.

You can order a copy direct from Graeme Kay the co-author by emailing him with an invoicing address at [email protected] (For the suspicious amongst you, I’m not making a penny on this, Stuart is far too tight for that, or Shokat has told him to put his wallet away. Unless of course it sells millions, then the bill is in the post)

He still has awful hair though.

Rating: 9.5/10

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