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Murder by Death

I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.

"Guest" post: MT reviews The Rules of Backyard Cricket

The Rules of Backyard Cricket - Jock Serong

Earlier today MT and I were chatting about a discussion I had here on BL with some friends regarding when he was going to join us here in book nirvana.  I casually suggested that while he didn't have to join, it would be cool if he wrote a review of one of his recent reads; I could post it as a guest post.  


 A couple of hours later he was banging away on his computer long enough I finally asked what he was doing...  The power of suggestion!  ;-)




Howzat*? Actually Pretty Readable…


There are very few decent sports books – and by that, I mean an actual plot that relies on the sporting action, rather than another autobiography from some washed up former star. There are even fewer sporting books willing to take on cricket. 


The Rules of Backyard Cricket does an admirable job in blending the game and the tale. Serong’s effort is laudable, and clearly the best cricket ‘story’ I’ve read. 


We follow cricketing prodigies Darren and Wally over the course of 40 odd years. Told from the point of view of the younger Darren, we track these brothers as they progress through the cricketing ranks. Both blessed with ridiculous talent, one is destined for a great future, one is headed for greater trouble.


There is very little I can say about the plot without ruining it for future readers. I’ll refrain, but safe to say this was never headed for a fairy tale* finish. For those with a sporting bent, I’d give this a try. Cricket tragics will enjoy it most, but the prose is not laden with specific terms that a cricket virgin would struggle with.


Despite that, I’d struggle to call this an enjoyable read. Halfway through, I realised what my issue was. I didn’t like ANY of the main characters, and there were few on the fringes that had much attraction. Australian writers don’t seem to mind this. The books I have read all seem to have a brutal edge to them – not the explosions and mass murder of spy novels, but the everyday suburban violence that carries more reality.


Australian literary and film culture does not tend to be subtle, and this is no exception. Think Romper Stomper, Wolf Creek, Mad Max, and of course, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

I’m sure the book was written purely for the Australian market, but I’d be interested to see how it would fare in other cricket countries like the UK and South Africa. I suspect the Proteas would lap it up, and the Poms would be appalled…


For those not familiar with cricket terms (guessing that’s about 95% of you), “Howzat” is what you bellow at the umpire when you want to dismiss a batsman. Yes, that’s right. The rules state a batsman can only be called out if the fielding team appeals to the umpire when the batsman makes a mistake.


In early times, it started with a polite “how is that Umpire?”. Over time, this was obviously for too hard for the speed merchants of the game. Rabid fast bowlers would drop to one knee and scream the abbreviated “howzat?” at the umpire, nearly drowning the poor man in a sea of spittle, complete with death glare. If you are inclined, YouTube Dennis Lillee.