A light and enjoyable story to introduce young American readers to the game.


Siggins follows Rugby Spirit (2012) with a companion novel about 13-year-old Eoin Madden, two ghosts, teammate rivalry and the love of the game.

Eoin returns to Castlerock College, his boarding school in Dublin, eager to continue his rugby career. The previous year, he had helped his team win the shiny silver cup now resting in the trophy case on campus. Eoin has a spectral friend, a boy named Brian who had been fatally injured in a match long ago and has helped Eoin learn the game. Eoin finds himself captain of the team, a difficult honor given its challenges, which include bullies, players competing for the same position and learning of the tough home life of one of his new friends. When Eoin decides to enter the Young Historian competition with a project on former rugby great Dave Gallaher, the ghost of Gallaher becomes friends with Eoin, too. “Why on earth had he suddenly become a magnet for dead rugby players?” But the ghosts are friendly and helpful, and ironically, the dead rugby players add life to a rather plainly told sports tale. Though descriptions of rugby and Irish names such as Caoimhe might throw young American readers, kids will recognize familiar sports themes and situations.

A light and enjoyable story to introduce young American readers to the game. (author’s note) (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-84717-591-5

Page Count: 176

Publisher: O'Brien Press/Dufour Editions

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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An enjoyable and insightful look at a wild and wooly era in American sports.



Sports journalist Cook (Titanic Thompson: The Man Who Bet on Everything, 2010, etc.) recalls “pro football’s raging, reckless, hormonal, hairy, druggy, drunken, immortal adolescence” of the 1970s and that era’s role in making the NFL the predominant American sport.

The nicknames of three Oakland Raiders defensive players give a quick idea of the nature of football in the ’70s: Dr. Death, the Assassin and the Hit Man. Pro football was brutal and violent and played (by and large) by men who made little money, lived life precipitously on the edge, played the game for keeps and partied afterward. There was no such thing as being concussed, and the use of performance-enhancing (as well as recreational) drugs, from steroids to horse testosterone, was pretty much the norm. Later, many players would pay a high physical or mental price for their football lives, yet few seem to express regrets. Cook brings to life both the outsized personalities of the era—party animal Ken “the Snake” Stabler, chain smoking Fred Biletnikoff, the troubled Terry Bradshaw, Broadway Joe Namath, Mean Joe Greene and so many others—and also the great rivalries and games of the era, particularly among the Steelers, Raiders and Cowboys. Out of this era, Cook demonstrates, came the modern game. Rule changes had made the forward pass, rather than the plodding running game, dominant. Players were becoming bigger and faster. Add a little sexiness to the carnage via the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, and the game was perfect for TV. A major contributor to this televisionization of football was the advent of Monday Night Football with the irascible Howard Cosell and sidekicks Frank Gifford and Don Meredith. Cook narrates the hilarious uncensored on- and off-air adventures of MNF. There may be a bit too much football lingo here—“flex defense,” “stunt 4-3,” “three-deep zone”—for the casual fan, but Cook does not go overboard.

An enjoyable and insightful look at a wild and wooly era in American sports.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-393-08016-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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A fun, frenetic memoir of one of the more volatile college gridiron campaigns in recent memory.



Attention college-football fanatics: If you couldn’t find your way to either the Golden Dome in South Bend or the Swamp in Gainesville last season, never fear, Austin Murphy (How Tough Could It Be?: The Trials and Errors of a Sportswriter Turned Stay-at-Home Dad, 2004, etc.) is here.

College football always has its share of soap-operatic story lines, but the 2006-07 season was about as gripping as it gets. It had enigmatic Coach Urban Meyer overseeing the University of Florida juggernaut, Notre Dame quarterback/golden boy Brady Quinn going through a roller-coaster senior year and the University of Southern California Trojans trying to pick up the pieces in their first post–Reggie Bush/Matt Leinart season. For these college football powers, the year had a compelling natural arc, making their parallel journeys a natural subject for a book-length memoir from an intrepid, fly-on-the-wall reporter. Enter Murphy. Once referred to by Dallas Cowboys behemoth Nate Newton as “that preppy motherf***** from Sports Illustrated,” Murphy wears his love for the sport on his sleeve (or, in this case, on the page). Rather than merely cover the season, he takes a put-the-author-into-the-story tack, a tricky approach that succeeds thanks primarily to his unabashed enthusiasm, unpretentiousness and insider access. Nothing is taken too seriously, which is exactly the way it should be; after all, it’s just a bunch of kids playing ball. The prose is loose, the reportage at times flat-out comedic—think Frank Deford meets Nick Bakay. Murphy also makes the wise choice to periodically step away from college football, reporting on Terrell Owens’s suicide attempt, professional golfers and his fellow journalists. All of which is why you don’t have to be a Trojan, or a Gator, or a Buckeye or even a college football aficionado to appreciate this book—you just have to be a sports fan.

A fun, frenetic memoir of one of the more volatile college gridiron campaigns in recent memory.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-06-137577-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2007

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