The last blog was all about the work of ‘hoolie-lit’ hero, football fiction and non-fiction writer, Dougie Brimson. You’d be hard pushed to find a harder working novelist. He was kind enough to answer a few questions about being a football writer and better still, makes a lot of sense while he’s at it… (if you need more background check out the previous blog )
The Simplest Game: Why do you choose to write about football? What is it about football (and related issues like football violence) that appeal to you as an author?
Dougie Brimson: Well the primary reason is that I'm a football fan and so as I tell anyone who wants to write, the golden rule is write what you know. But the truth is, I never, ever set out to be a writer. It kind of just happened.
In 1995, as EURO 96 approached and the country was already going hooligan crazy, there was nothing which discussed the issue from the perspective of those who were being perceived as the problem and so, having spotted a gap in the market, we (my brother and I) set out to fill that gap. As time progressed, I was asked my opinions on all kinds of issues and so continued to put my thoughts into print. And in most cases, as anyone who has read any of my books will know, the bulk of them are just that, my opinions. It just so happens that they seem to strike a chord with other people.
TSG: With 12 books in 12 years (including 10 in 7), you're clearly a very prolific writer. What drives you to write?
DB: It's 13 actually! (Humble apologies, Dougie) The main reason I write is because I have a lot to say and no other way of saying it! That said, I do think the market for books like mine is slowing to a trickle so it's unlikely I'll do another non-fiction book for a while.
TSG: One of the best qualities about your fictional work is how vivid it is, especially the fight scenes, you put the reader right amongst it, how do you think you are able to do this?
DB: Thanks very much. It comes back to the point I made previously, write what you know. That's not to say I was some kind of major scrapper in my time, but I have vivid recollections of certain incidents and that really does help when you're constructing a scene.
TSG: There seems to be a general belief that men prefer reading non-fiction over fiction – it’s been put forward as one of the reasons for the dearth of football fiction. Do you think this is true and do you think your non-fiction books made it easier for your audience to access your fictional work? And do you think there is a defined market for football fiction?
DB: Absolutely. I think I was very lucky to be given the opportunity to write fiction because it's something I really enjoy doing and I would love to do some more. However, the sad reality is that the market for football fiction is very small and whilst my books, The Crew and Top Dog, as well as The Football Factory and Awaydays have all sold really well, for some reason we have seen very few writers follow the fictional path and I have no idea why.
I've spoken to a number of agents about this very thing over the years and they've all said that whilst there is clearly a market for ‘Lad-Lit’ -within which ‘hoolie-lit’ surely falls- when it comes to fiction publishers have become fixated on SAS/Army type books or the type of drivel which simply apes Chic-lit and makes blokes sound like limp wristed tossers.
I personally think this is insulting to the average male, yet until we can get the publishing community to take a gamble or get readers to start badgering publishers for more fiction related to the great game, it'll never change. Hopefully, when the film adaptations of The Crew and Billy's Log hit the cinema's, it will kick start an upsurge in interest and a change in thinking. I hope so anyway.
TSG: So do we. Another theory is that footballers are better at expressing themselves with a ball than a pen, why do you think there is so little fiction about a sport which is so popular?
DB: I think if we relied on players for fiction we'd be in trouble anyway! Most would struggle to write their name let alone construct a novel!
Again, I think it comes back to the fact that publishers are reluctant to take a gamble with writers, even established ones. But to be fair, the key to fiction is always the story. If you don't have a good plot then no one is going to even think about publishing it let alone want to read it. And that's the challenge for the writers.
Check Dougie’s work out for yourself at http://www.brimson.net
The Simplest Game would like to thank Dougie for taking the time to consider a couple of 1-2’s in the wee world that is football fiction.
Whether you’re an Andy McNab fan or a sensitive metrosexual, if you’re interested in football writing of any sort his work is most definitely worth a look .