I want this book. Very badly. It’s called Penguins Stopped Play: Eleven Village Cricketers Take on the World and it’s by Harry Thompson. And I Will Have It, for Number One Son came up trumps and presented me with book tokens for Mother’s Day. Hurrah! One of them has PSP written on it, already.
Here’s the Amazon blurb because I couldn’t do it better myself even if I’d read the book yet:
This is a hilarious odyssey in which an amateurish bunch of English eccentrics go cricketing across the globe. It seemed a simple enough idea at the outset: to assemble a team of eleven men to play cricket on each of the seven continents of the globe. Except – hold on a minute – that’s not a simple idea at all. And when you throw in incompetent airline officials, amorous Argentine Colonels’ wives, cunning Bajan drug dealers, gay Australian waiters, overzealous American anti-terrorist police, idiot Welshmen dressed as Santa Claus, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and whole armies of pitch-invading Antarctic penguins, you quickly arrive at a whole lot more than you bargained for. Harry Thompson’s hilarious book tells the story of one of those great idiotic enterprises that only an Englishman could have dreamed up, and only a bunch of Englishmen could possibly have wished to carry out.
In September 2005, I posted a review of Harry Thompson’s novel This Thing of Darkness. It was my favourite new novel published that year. It was also longlisted for the Booker Prize, which delighted its author who, shortly after finishing it was diagnosed with an aggressive form of lung cancer. He talked to his friend Victoria Coren about his illness for an article in The Observer in June 2005. He died in November 2005, having just completed the final edits on Penguins Stopped Play. He also wrote biographies of Peter Cook, Richard Ingrams and Tintin and his creator Herge. And if that wasn’t enough, with his TV hat on he was the original producer of hit comedy panel games Have I Got News for You and They Think It’s All Over.
On 26 March, The Sunday Times printed an extract from Penguins Stopped Play, which made want to read the book even more.*
It’s sad to think that there won’t be any more novels from this gifted author. And no more cricket matches involving The Captain Scott Invitation XI, at least not with Harry at the helm.
Here’s his obituary in The Times.
*If you’re not already registered to access The Times/Sunday Times, you can use http://www.bugmenot.com to maintain your privacy.