That was 2019…

A few moments as we approach the end of 2019 to reflect on what has been a debut year for Texi Smith, Jarrod Black and the Unashamed Football Novels from Fair Play Publishing.

It was Saturday 23rd March when the world, and indeed myself, got the opportunity to touch and feel an Unashamed Football Novel for the first time. A very surreal opening session to the inaugural Football Writers Festival saw a selection of authors assemble at the back of the fabulous Jamberoo Pub in a room dedicated to football hero Johnny Warren. This was an opportunity to meet the authors and buy the books. I’d never even seen the printed books before that moment, let alone signed one. It was Helen Tyrikos (@HelenTyrikos), along with colleague Kimon Taliadoros (@KimonTaliadoros), who gave Jarrod Black his first sale, and I remember writing something to that effect in the inside cover.

The Festival was great fun – interesting sessions, hearing from some big names in football, as well as a lot of names that I had never but should have definitely heard of. I was able to put faces to names of newspaper and television journalists, met fellow football lovers as well as current and future authors. There was also a moment in front of the mic, a fifteen minute slot with fiction author Adrian Deans (@MrCleansheets), hosted by journalist and fellow Geordie Trevor Thompson (@trevortho). My first ever panel appearance, and I had no idea what to expect. There was no preparation or script. I’m guessing it didn’t go that well, the audio never made it to the podcasts from the festival, but it was a great experience, coming so soon after seeing my books in print for the first time. A good session on the ales that night was a reward for making the journey, and there was some good banter as the festival’s first evening came to a close in the early hours.

The next day was memorable for seeing football journalism in action, with FFA’s Chris Nikou making an appearance and dropping a bombshell about promotion and relegation in the A League. Watching social media light up following those comments was a testament to the media machine that was present in the audience that day.

So, that was my introduction to the notion of football writing in Australia, and it served as a launch for the first two books. Introducing Jarrod Black and Jarrod Black Hospital Pass were now in circulation, available to buy, and it wasn’t long before they started to appear in every online bookstore in every land. Photos started coming in of readers with their purchases, the first review appeared on Amazon UK, and Macarthur Rams fullback Chris Sheerin (@ChrisSheerin90) even managed to slip it on the bookshelf at the airport next to all the best sellers and get a photo. Very clever! An opportunity to spruik the books came at the annual trivia night for the local football club West Ryde Rovers, which brought good book sales. A photo from that night then appeared in the first official review of Introducing Jarrod Black by Joshua Thomas (@Joshua_Thomas97)

The books turned up at St James Park Newcastle for a photo session, then in the local paper back in my home town of Morpeth. Carlos the Lone Ranger (@planetfutball) invited this rookie author on to 2RRR’s famous Saturday morning show where we talked all things football for an hour. In a running theme, the audio was not saved, so I’m still waiting to appear in an audio recording – third time lucky eh? Global endurance runner Mark Allison (@RunGeordieRun) was spotted on social media reading one of the books in Bedlington, local minister Mal York (@malyork) then took the books to India and a theme was born. Icelandic star Sjonni Runarsson (@eckball) took Jarrod Black to his home country, Toon photographer Serena Taylor (@iamserenataylor) was snapped at Druridge Bay with an Unashamed Football Novel, future NZ footballer Ollie Peters sent a photo with his books in Kiwiland, before Hospital Pass came uncomfortably close to FIFA headquarters near Zurich on the banks of the Agerisee.

A first review from a reader in the US was followed closely by a sighting at the F1 at Monza, and the books then finally made it to the holy grail, The Back Page (@BackPageShop) in Newcastle, albeit via a curcuitous route.

Fellow Toon fan Adam Peacock (@adampeacock3) then gave the books a shout at a meet for @nufcsydney and Football Book Review (@footybookreview) reviewed the books. Almost the entire Matildas team then signed a copy of Hospital Pass at the open training night at Bankwest Stadium. The approach to Christmas saw the books hit the Cook Islands, saw a copy in the hands of Wolfsburg Socceroos star John Iredale, a sejour in Port Douglas and finally on Christmas Day in two contrasting surrounds – the frozen Ottawa River in Canada and on a family holiday in Fiji.

Jarrod Black Hospital Pass signed by a different author!

In that time, the reviews have kept coming in, and the overall feeling is positive. Initial sales figures for the year suggest that there is definitely a market for Football Fiction in Australia and indeed worldwide, both as physical books and their eBook equivalent. The writing has continued too – book three will be out at the next Football Writers Festival in May, again at the smashing venue of the Jamberoo Pub. This so far untitled work continues the story of our hero Jarrod Black and I’ve got to say it was an absolute delight to write. It’s in the editing stage at the moment and while I’m awaiting the editor’s draft, book four is also taking shape. Stand by for more Unashamed Football Novels in 2020!

Thanks for reading this post – I know it’s a long one, but it’s been a busy year and I wanted to share it with you. Happy New Year!

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