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Shot and a Ghost By James Willstrop

Release date: 09th October, 2012
Publisher: Rod Gilmour

List Price: £9.99
Our Price: £8.99
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It's no surprise that virtually all sporting autobiographies are ghost-written. Why wouldn't they be? Sportsmen and women are usually busy enough without having to discipline themselves to researching, planning and then writing perhaps more than 100,000 words of readable prose.

James Willstrop is different. He's a name many readers may not have heard of in a sporting (or any other) context, yet for all but four weeks last year, he was officially the world's number one squash player, a status he reluctantly relinquished in early January.

You get a sense of the type of determined guy Willstrop is when you read his book's introduction.

"If [the book] were to be written in my name," he declares, "then I wanted to write it myself. Today's bookshelves are rife with prematurely written autobiographies about the rich and famous. As I am neither, my motives for writing a book are rather different."

It's an opening which, though it may strike some people as being a little haughty, tends also to create an immediate bond between author and reader.

In fact, Willstrop strengthens that bond and removes any elevated sense of himself altogether when he writes, "I was quite sure that people wouldn't want to read about my formative years frolicking around naked in a paddling pool. Instead, I resolved to limit the content to the topics I felt would really interest people. What it feels like to play in a World Open final, the pain of a hard training session or a response to the loss of a special person."

Although the author suggests he prefers to limit the book's content, the fact is that because squash is his life, Shot and a Ghost proves to be one of the most brutally honest sporting autobiographies ever written.

Amateur squash is a fierce, vicious game, yet once players graduate to the professional ranks, it becomes even more ruthless, its finest exponents studies in single-mindedness.

But before he captured the world number one slot, Willstrop was, ironically, considered to be too nice. How could a poetry-loving vegetarian who loved musicals hope to succeed amongst the rarefied air of pro squash? This fascinating account reveals how he did it. Brilliant.

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