Jonathan Tulloch (the man, not the horse) has written a whole bunch of award winning short stories, four novels, won numerous prizes and awards including New Zealand’s lucrative Betty Trask Award (2000) for his debut, The Season Ticket, and the JB Priestley Award for The Lottery (2003). In 2004 he was on the TLS list of the twenty best young writers. He’s recently co-written a piece of children’s fiction with his wife.
The Season Ticket, the book this blog is interested in, is a tale of two wee Geordie boys trying to raise the cash for a seat at St. James’s Park for a season.
Sewell and Gerry live in Gateshead, home of one of Europes biggest shopping centres and all those clipped and busy industrial city streets. Like George and Lenny in Steinbeck’s book, Sewell has strength and Gerry is wee and wily. They never go to school and they’ve never got any money. Looking at the superstructure that houses their beloved Noocastle United they decide to raise the enough cash to watch the games. But the best laid plans of their almost impossible goal sets them on a frequently funny and sometimes heart crushingly poignant series of adventures.
Tulloch also penned an excellent film adaptation of the book called, Purely Belter. Directed by Mark Herman (Brassed Off and Little Voice), it even featured a cameo from Noocastle’s favourite son, Alan Shearer.
While the film unfortunately suffered from comparisons with Herman’s other more successful and popular works, the book stands on its own as an excellent read, whether you’re interested in football fiction or not. It offers a finely tuned perspective on the fragility of the human condition, but more importantly (for this blog in particular) it offers a stunning insight into the hope that football gives us.
Besides the top drawer wallow in financial excess enjoyed and perpetuated by big clubs and Roy Keane’s, prawn sandwich munching and happy to pay through the nose for it, fans, the most romantic of footballing notions resolutely survives. No matter the volume of love, devotion or cash we pour over it, each new season and each new signing enflames our limitless hope and grants us the power to believe irrational promises can be fulfilled. The Hope That Kills Us right enough.
Like many of his contemporaries (as far as I know) Tulloch’s only ever written one piece of football fiction. There must be a reason for that. I’d love to know what it is. Nevertheless, I hold out the hope that he will write another.