After enjoying his fair share of success as a rugby player and team manager Anthony Buchanan now hopes to win big as an author.
The former Llanelli and Wales star has been shortlisted for The Sunday Times Rugby Book of the Year 2022 award following the publication of his biography, The Buck Props Here.
His unique rugby journey didn’t begin until the age of 22, when he chose to turn his back on a highly promising career in football as a goalkeeper, but led to playing for Llanelli and representing Wales in the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987.
On retirement he became an administrator and helped transform the Scarlets into a European powerhouse before serving on the International Rugby Board and overseeing the selection of referees at the last Rugby World Cup.
His story has been ghost written by former Evening Post reporter, Geraint Thomas, who notches up a unique hat trick of nominations having previously been shortlisted – in what is seen as the Oscars of sports books – after ghost writing Glenn Webbe: The Gloves Are Off (2020) the biography of the former Bridgend and Wales wing, and Terry Davies: Wales’s First Superstar Fullback (2017) alongside the former Llanelli, Wales and Lions star.
The pair, who are up against former Wales centre Jamie Roberts, Irish stars Keith Earls and Willie Anderson, as well as This is Your Everest: The Lions, The Springboks and the Epic Tour of 1997, and The Flying Prince: Alexander Obolensky, will attend a gala dinner in The Oval cricket ground London on Thursday to find out if they have won.
There will be further Welsh representation on the evening with Alun Wyn Jones on the shortlist for Autobiography of the Year 2022.
Buchanan, who is donating his share of the book’s royalties to securing the rugby pitch in Ystradgynlais for future generations, said: “I feel humbled to be in the running for the best rugby book in Great Britain and Ireland, but my story is not just about an individual, it encompasses the momentous shift in Welsh rugby, from the old amateur days to the introduction of European rugby, professionalism and the regions.
“I would like to thank Geraint Thomas for encouraging me to tell my story in the first place and for weaving all that has happened into such a compelling narrative. He’s done such a wonderful job. So many people, who have read it, have contacted me to say how much they enjoyed it – and they weren’t all Scarlets supporters!”
Thomas, who trained as a magazine journalist in Cardiff University’s School of Journalism and went on to complete an MA in Creative and Media Writing at Swansea University, said: “To be shortlisted for a third time obviously feels great and, I guess, is quite an achievement, not just for me but also my publisher Y Lolfa, who have always shown faith in me.”
Thomas, who had a spell playing for Bridgend in the early 1990s, added: “It helped that I played in the same era as Bucks and have a good knowledge of the Welsh rugby landscape. But what really makes the book so enjoyable is the how Buck has recalled the banter and humour which used to be the real reason we played the game.
“People ask me which is my favourite book, but, to be honest, I really enjoyed working on all three. Writing a book is a bit like having children only the hard work comes first and then you experience the pleasure of seeing them enter the world – and if they are popular that’s even better!”
The Sunday Times Book Awards take place on Thursday 27 May 2022
Carmarthenshire author’s Carmarthen Crime series hits the bookshelves
Ferryside author John Nicholl is celebrating the re-release of his Carmarthenshire-based detective books as the Carmarthen Crime Series.
His new publisher, Boldwood Books – winner of Publisher of the Year in the 2022 Independent Publishing Awards – has repackaged the four books with a strong emphasis on the Carmarthenshire setting and covers depicting local locations including Carmarthen, Dryslwyn Castle and the Tywi Estuary.
The first two books, The Carmarthen Murders and The Tywi Estuary Killings, are on sale now, with the other two – The Castle Beach Murders and The Dryslwyn Castle Killings to follow soon.
The books focus on DI Gareth Gravel, an accomplished, old-school policeman affectionately known as Grav, who feels out of step with the modern world as he approaches retirement.
“Grav is something of a legend within the West Wales Police Force, liked and respected by the rank and file but not so much by the top brass due to his sharp tongue and a willingness to bend the rules to get results,” says Nicholl, who lives in Ferryside.
“Grav is overweight, loves rugby, drinks too much, particularly since the loss of his wife, and is struggling with chronic health issues. The job matters to him, victims matter to him, and he often goes the extra mile to protect the vulnerable victims of crime, particularly women and children, who he has a strong inclination to protect.”
The books draw on Nicholl’s own experience as a police officer and then as a child protection officer in Carmarthenshire. He started writing fiction after his psychologist recommended it as a way to process traumas he had witnessed during his career, which left him with PTSD.
He self-published his first book and it became an online bestseller; he went on to get signed by a publisher and now has 11 bestsellers behind him. His focus is on crime and the darker side of human nature, with a strong empathy for victims of abuse.
“The four-book Carmarthen Crime Series, while fictional, draws on my real-life experiences as a police officer and child protection social worker,” he says. “I hope this gives the stories a gritty realism readers will enjoy.”
He adds that he is delighted to see the books republished as the Carmarthen Crime series.
“I grew up, live and write in west Wales, and so I’m delighted my publisher has given the books a strong Welsh identity, with stunning covers featuring some of the beautiful locations I know so very well,” he says.
Author uncovers the lost tale of Swansea fairground legend
From Swansea Bliz survivor to fairground strongman – an author discovers his grandfather’s fascinating story as The Welsh Hercules.
In the early half of the 20th Century, Jack Lemm was a household name in Wales. As the Strongman star of fairgrounds and Music Hall, he was famed for his feats of strength, wrestling and his dangerous headlining act, The Whirl of Death.
Times and entertainment trends change, however, and now the once-famous showman is almost forgotten.
For one man, however, the story of the strongman had special meaning. Glaswegian Steven Blockley had always thought that his Great Grandfather deserved to be better known.
“I never actually met Jack,” he says. “I grew up listening to my uncles and aunts telling fascinating stories about all his incredible achievements around the Swansea area and I always knew I wanted to write a book to bring them to a wider audience. As I dug further into his past, however, even I was surprised by what I found.”
Looking into the background of Jack, Steven and co-author David J Thacker uncovered a rich life story and the perfect antidote to our troubled times.
Steven continues, “Jack lived through some harsh years – he was on HMS Lion at the Battle of Jutland in World War 1 and was a survivor of the Swansea Blitz in the Second World War – but his focus was always to put family first and to provide for everyone at home, even if doing so took him away from them.”
David takes up the story. “Jack came from a Greek family and his given surname was actually Lamnea, but his exploits on stage and at fairs all over the UK, including at Neath, were not always popular, especially with his authoritarian father.
“A lot of the tension in our book comes from that relationship, of a son trying to live up to the ideals of his father.”
The resulting book, The Welsh Hercules, took over a year to research and write but in doing it Steven found a kind of resolution.
“While we were writing the book, I turned 60. At that age, Jack was still doing 40 shows a day at the fairgrounds and even after he retired, he was helping roadworkers outside his house to fix the roads!
“Age really was just a number for him and I think that’s a great attitude to have.”
The Welsh Hercules tells the story of Jack, from his humble beginnings on Swansea Docks through to becoming a renowned boxing coach and fairground star. It takes him through two World Wars, as a survivor of the Battle of Jutland and the Swansea Blitz, and introduces a whole new world of showmen, acrobats and colourful characters.
But at its heart, Jack’s story is one of family – of the challenges met, the hearts won and the enduring romance of a Showman and his wife.
The Welsh Hercules is available in paperback on Amazon priced at £11.99
New video aims to help parents’ bedtime storytelling stage fright
Whether it’s ‘ROARING’ like a bear, acting out sword battles with pirates to performing an alien impression, night after night parents transform into their inner thespian to become the ultimate storyteller.
However, despite delivering performances that will last a lifetime in children’s minds, a new survey has revealed the underlying anxieties and bedtime stage fright many parents face before and during each nightly performance.
The survey of 1,000 parents, commissioned by Aldi’s baby and toddler brand Mamia, has found two thirds of parents confess to feeling embarrassed, or lacking in confidence when reading to their children.
Indeed, almost one in four (23%) say they were jealous of other parents who don’t get embarrassed, while over a third (38%) skip parts of the story or rushed through sections just to get to the end.
The underlying reasons for feeling embarrassed stems from tiredness (35%), challenges doing different voices (34%) and not making a story dramatic enough (27%).
Frustrated parents up and down the country also pinpoint their reading ability as a barrier to reading to their kids, with 15% to their reading level not being great.
The new study has been released to coincide with Children’s Book Week (2-8 May), alongside a storytelling masterclass to help parents to conquer shyness, add some flair to their reading and even tackle voices.
Aldi’s free Storytelling Masterclass features professional actor Sandy Grierson, a father of two and star of numerous Royal Shakespeare Company productions.
Sandy’s top five suggestions for overcoming bedtime storytelling stage fright
- Conquering shyness: Remember you are delivering a story to your kids, not theatre critics. Simply, take a deep breath, slow down and immerse yourself in the book!
- Struggling with accents: If no matter how hard you try you still can’t pull off a region or robot accent, why not try to change your tone instead, using high or low voices.
- Dynamic & engaging storytelling: Let the book be your guide. For instance, if you see a full stop, then pause to build a dramatic effect. If you see a word written in all caps or big font, then give it some welly and bellow it out. Maybe if you see a sound effect, such as a pirate’s ‘Arr Matey’, then give it your best shot!
- Let the page guide you: It’s not about the quality of your reading, it’s about the quality time you are spending with your kids. In this scenario, I suggest let the image on the page be your guide. If the bear is roaring, let out a big roar like a bear. The book isn’t here to trick you.
- Bored of reading the same book: If you want to mix-up your storytelling why not use a real-life story or blend relatives into the book you’re reading. So, whether it’s the time Grandad became a pirate, when Mummy joined the circus to a sibling morphed into an animal, it’s just a fun game. Also, you never know, you might just have a bestseller on your hands!
To read or not to read to children has never been in question, with the average parent reading four times a week for 20 minutes each time.
In fact, over half (58%) believe that reading bedtime stories to children is important for their development and more than a fifth (22%) are making a conscious effort not to finish work late so they can enjoy a story with their child.
Despite these challenges, a heart-warming 96% aim to read to children every night, with a third (34%) saying it’s the highlight of their day and three quarters feeling they’ve missed out on valuable time spent with their little ones if they’re not able to squeeze in a bedtime story.
Of the respondents, almost two thirds (62%) said that they’d be interested in getting tips via a storytelling masterclass to help them read better bedtime stories, which is why Aldi’s Mamia has teamed up Sandy to help parents finesse their storytelling.
Sandy Grierson, Actor, said: “I’m a father of two and stage actor so often I’m at work when it’s story time. Then, when I’m not it can sometimes feel a bit like a busman’s holiday.
“So believe me when I say, at bedtime, you’re probably better off not being a professional actor. Nonetheless for those parents who suffer from bedtime story stage fright, be it struggles with accents, dramatic delivery to reading capabilities, I hope this Aldi Mamia masterclass is a helpful tool to make bedtime stories with children a moment to savour, not stress over.”
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