Thursday, June 10, 2010




I’m sure there aren’t too many readers of this blog who are gearing up for the start of the 2010 World Cup as I am, but to each his own. I’ve been playing the game since I was a young lad in England, through my teens with club teams in California, and finally back in England again for two seasons – when I was much faster and had a lot more hair.

Soccer is in my blood and I’ll be up early watching games and highlights for the next month. My own fourth novel, Chapel Of The Ravens, was set in the world of American indoor soccer, at a time when America didn’t have a national outdoor league. The book’s publication led to me speaking at the American National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta, NY, when the American women’s national team had just taken the women’s world cup for the first time. Even today, I’m convinced the American women play a better brand of soccer than the men’s national team, but that’s a subject for another post.

Over the years there have been a handful of soccer novels, very few of them readable – even fewer realistic. 1988’s The World Cup Murder is readable, but very, very far from realistic. Ostensibly, the novel is credited to soccer’s elder statesman, and arguably the beautiful game’s greatest player of all time, Pele, with a little help from mystery journeyman Herbert Resnicow. However, if Pele had anything to do with writing the novel it would never have dropped as many clangers as are apparent to even a casual fan. Still, the late Resnicow, a gentleman if there ever was one, manages to turn out a readable puzzle novel as was his trademark.


It’s World Cup time – the final competition for the hardest-fought title in sports. In the stands soccer fans from around the world have come to cheer on their teams. Emotions will run high; in an atmosphere electrified by national pride and politics, riots may erupt over a disputed or prejudicial call by a referee.

There are intense feelings on the field as well, for the American club, the Booters, have defied the laws of chance and logic and will play the East German team in New York for the title
[HUGE CLANGER HERE – NATIONAL TEAMS, NOT INDIVIDUAL TEAMS PLAY EACH OTHER IN THE WORLD CUP. A CLUB TEAM WOULDN’T BE PLAYING AGAINST A NATIONAL TEAM – IT’S ALL BOLLOCKS]. A winning U.S. soccer team was as unlikely as the choice of an American stadium for the final game [SECOND CLANGER – IF THE WORLD CUP WAS BEING PLAYED IN THE U.S. ALL THE GAMES INCLUDING THE FINAL WOULD OBVIOUSLY BE IN THE U.S.], but sparked by the fading yet still peerless Brazilian star, Grilho the ‘grasshopper’ known around the world – the Booters have made it to the World Cup [CLANGER NUMBER THREE – WHY ISN’T THE BRAZILIAN STAR PLAYING FOR THE BRAZILIAN NATIONAL TEAM].

Off the field, there are even stronger currents of turbulence [this at least is true], and the eddy around the upholstered offices [ARE THE WALLS PADDED?] of Gregor Ragusic, the Yugoslavian-born owner of the Booters. A brilliant entrepreneur [IF HE WAS, HE WOULD NEVER HAVE INVESTED IN AN AMERICAN SOCCER TEAM IN 1988], Ragusic took a third-rate soccer franchise and built it into a championship team. But his views on soccer are well known and as controversial as his business tactics. Ragusic always wants more – he sees soccer as a money cow [HUH?]. If that means changing the rules, diluting the game to accommodate TV networks and corporate sponsors, so be it [BIGGER, HUH?].

But that wasn’t it. Someone killed Gregor Ragusic on the eve of the World Cup competition. Dozens of people had reason to loath Gregor Ragusic; one of them hated him enough to commit murder.

The World Cup murder is as tightly drawn as an evenly matched soccer game. Pele brings his years of playing knowledge and skill
[NO HE DIDN’T] to a story line deftly crafted by Herbert Resnicow. Pele’s depiction of the poetry and mathematical precision of the game gives an insight and appreciation of soccer comparable to Dick Francis’ books on racing [NO IT DOESN’T]. The World Cup Murder is a treat for mystery buffs [IT IS FOR THOSE WHO DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT SOCCER] and an exciting introduction to the champion soccer player of the world, the incomparable Pele.

Apparently, after all my snide comments, I can see I didn’t think much of this novel as a soccer book. Resnicow’s mystery is fine, the soccer part, however, is perhaps best forgotten. I guess I’m going to have to root around and come up with a better soccer title for next week.



pattinase (abbott) said...

Very timely!

Evan Lewis said...

Hilarious clangers, Paul. Pele must have cringed (if he ever heard about this book other than cashing the checks).

I like the schedule this time. Early morning games are a lot easier to catch than those (like last time) in the middle of the night.

I'm almost hoping the U.S v England match is a draw, with 5 goals apiece. I want both teams to go through.

Martin Edwards said...

Very enjoyable post!