Review: The Rules of Backyard Cricket (2016) by Jock Serong


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Text Publishing, 2016. File Size: 905 KB.  Print Length: 304 pages. ASIN: B01FPQQKTS. ISBN: 9781922253798.

30271762Book description: It starts in a suburban backyard with Darren Keefe and his older brother, sons of a fierce and gutsy single mother. The endless glow of summer, the bottomless fury of contest. All the love and hatred in two small bodies poured into the rules of a made-up game. Darren has two big talents: cricket and trouble. No surprise that he becomes an Australian sporting star of the bad-boy variety—one of those men who’s always got away with things and just keeps getting. Until the day we meet him, middle aged, in the boot of a car. Gagged, cable-tied, a bullet in his knee. Everything pointing towards a shallow grave.

My take: The Rules of Backyard Cricket is the second novel by Jock Serong. The story is  narrated in the first person, using both tenses, present and past, by Darren Keefe while he’s locked into the boot of a car running full speed from Geelong to the western suburbs of Melbourne. Darren has his hands and legs tied in with cables cutting into his flesh and a bullet wound on his right knee, though is not bleeding much. He shares the same space with a shovel and two large paper sacks of quicklime. While waiting for an almost certain death, he recalls different episodes of his life. His on-going quarrels and clashes with Wally, his elder brother, in a Melbourne suburb playing cricket in the backyard. His mother’s struggle to provide for her family in the absence of a paternal figure. And, most important, the talent that both brothers develop to play professionally cricket, reaching the higher goals in this sport. Darren has a natural talent but he’s particularly undisciplined, while Wally, much more constant and disciplined, is determined to become the best player. Both will become players of the Australian cricket team, with the aim of becoming their leader. As the story progresses, the reader finds out how the professional sport life of both brothers unfolds and why Darren finds himself in such a delicate situation.

Several are the themes covered by this novel, the constant rivalry between siblings, the role sport plays in the development of the personality, and the difficult retirement of elite sportsmen, to name a few. Specifically, this last one is evident in the following sentence: ‘Yes they were. Looking back on it, there wasn’t the support that athletes get these days. The money stops coming in, and you’re released from all those disciplines you’re accustomed to. And you know, people have been saying yes to you all your life, an then the music stops.’ Both by the themes treated and by the setting described in the novel, I’ve very much enjoyed its reading. Even I will venture to describe it as the best book I’ve read this year, so far. And, even though my knowledge of cricket is pretty scarce, not to say non-existent, I had not the least difficulty to follow the particulars of the story. This is noir fiction in its most pure sense, extremely well-written. To such an extent that some have qualified it a ‘literary thriller’. And the characters are superbly portrayed. I have not the slightest doubt that Jock Serong will continue to provide us many hours of interesting readings. In this sense, I very much look forward to reading On the Java Ridge.

As Margot Kinberg states so well ‘The Rules of Backyard Cricket is the story of two boys, both natural athletes, who lose their innocence as they move from childhood cricket play to the world of professional athletes. It takes place in a distinctly Australian setting and features an uncompromising look at the world of cricket.’

My rating: A+ (Don’t delay, get your hands on a copy of this book)

About the author: Jock Serong is the author of Quota, winner of the 2015 Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction; The Rules of Backyard Cricket, shortlisted for the 2017 Victorian Premier’s Award for Fiction, finalist of the 2017 MWA Edgar Awards for Best Paperback Original, and finalist of the 2017 INDIES Adult Mystery Book of the Year; and On the Java Ridge, shortlisted for the 2018 Indie Awards. Formerly a lawyer, Jock is now a feature writer and was the editor of Great Ocean Quarterly.  He lives with his wife and four children in Port Fairy, Victoria.

The Rules of Backyard Cricket has been reviewed at The View from the Blue House, Crime Time, Crime Review, Confessions of a Mystery Novelist…, Shotsmag, Crime Watch, among many others. It was also reviewed by Bernadette at Fair Dinkum Crime,  but it seems that this website is no longer available on the internet.

Text publishing publicity page 

On My Radar: Jock Serong

audible

La reglas del cricket de patio, de Jock Serong

Descripción del libro: Comienza en el patio de un barrio suburbano con Darren Keefe y su hermano mayor, hijos de una madre soltera feroz y valiente. El brillo infinito del verano, la furia sin fondo de la contienda. Todo el amor y el odio en dos cuerpos pequeños vertidos en las reglas de un juego inventado. Darren tiene dos grandes aptitudes: el cricket y los problemas. No es de extrañar que se convierta en una estrella deportiva australiana del tipo chico malo, uno de esos hombres que siempre se salen con la suya y cada vez más. Hasta el día en que lo encontramos, de mediana edad, en el maletero de un automóvil. Amordazado, atado con cables, con una bala en la rodilla. Todo apunta hacia una tumba superficial.

Mi opinión: Las reglas del cricket de patio es la segunda novela de Jock Serong. La historia está narrada en primera persona, utilizando los dos tiempos, presente y pasado, por Darren Keefe mientras está encerrado en el maletero de un automóvil que corre a toda velocidad desde Geelong hasta los suburbios del oeste de Melbourne. Darren tiene las manos y las piernas atadas con cables que le cortan la carne y una herida de bala en la rodilla derecha, aunque no sangra mucho. Comparte el mismo espacio con una pala y dos grandes sacos de papel de cal viva. Mientras espera una muerte casi segura, recuerda diferentes episodios de su vida. Sus continuas peleas y enfrentamientos con Wally, su hermano mayor, en un suburbio de Melbourne jugando al cricket en el patio trasero. La lucha de su madre por mantener a su familia en ausencia de una figura paterna. Y, lo más importante, el talento que ambos hermanos desarrollan para jugar profesionalmente al cricket, alcanzando las metas más altas en este deporte. Darren tiene un talento natural pero es particularmente indisciplinado, mientras que Wally, mucho más constante y disciplinado, está decidido a convertirse en el mejor jugador. Ambos se convertirán en jugadores del equipo australiano de cricket, con el objetivo de convertirse en su capitán. A medida que avanza la historia, el lector descubre cómo se desarrolla la vida deportiva profesional de ambos hermanos y por qué Darren se encuentra en una situación tan delicada.

Varios son los temas tratados en esta novela, la rivalidad constante entre hermanos, el papel del deporte en el desarrollo de la personalidad y el difícil retiro de los deportistas de élite, por nombrar algunos. Específicamente, este último es evidente en la siguiente frase: “Sí, eran. Mirando hacia atrás, no había el apoyo que los atletas tienen en la actualidad. El dinero deja de entrar y tu quedas liberado de todas esas disciplinas a las que estás acostumbrado. Y sabes, la gente ha estado dando la razón toda tu vida, y de pronto la música se para.” Tanto por los temas tratados como por el ambiente descrito en la novela, he disfrutado mucho su lectura. Incluso me atrevería a describirlo como el mejor libro que he leído este año, hasta ahora. Y, aunque mi conocimiento del cricket es bastante escaso, por no decir inexistente, no tuve la menor dificultad para seguir los detalles de la historia. Esta es una ficción noir en su sentido más puro, extremadamente bien escrita. Hasta tal punto que algunos lo han calificado como un “thriller literario”. Y los personajes están magníficamente retratados. No tengo la menor duda de que Jock Serong continuará brindándonos muchas horas de lecturas interesantes. En este sentido, tengo muchas ganas de leer On the Java Ridge.

Como bien señala Margot Kinberg: ‘Las reglas del cricket de patio es la historia de dos niños, ambos atletas innatos, que pierden su inocencia a medida que pasan del juego infantil de cricket al mundo de los atletas profesionales. Tiene lugar en un entorno marcadamente australiano y ofrece una mirada implacable sobre el mundo del cricket.

Mi valoración: A+ (No se demore, consiga un ejemplar de este libro)

Sobre el autor: Jock Serong es el autor de Quota, ganadora del Premio Ned Kelly 2015 a la Mejor Novela Novel; Las reglas del cricket de patio, fue seleccionada al Premio Victorian Premier’s de novela en el 2017, finalista de los Premios MWA Edgar en el 2017 al mejor libro original en rústica, y finalista del INDIES libro del año de misterio para adultos en el 2017; y On the Java Ridge, ha sido seleccionado al Premio Indie de 2018.  Con anterioridad ejerció como abogado, y ahora Jock es escritor y fue editor del Great Ocean Quarterly. Vive con su esposa y cuatro hijos en Port Fairy, Victoria.

8 thoughts on “Review: The Rules of Backyard Cricket (2016) by Jock Serong

  1. Thank you very much for the kind words and the mention, José Ignacio. I’m very glad you found the book so compelling. It certainly is a powerful novel, isn’t it?

  2. Sounds fascinating and your saying it is the best book you have read this year is high praise when I look at the list of titles you have tackled. I am not sure when I will get to it but I do want to check this out.

  3. A straight description of this book does not tempt me, but when I read high praise from you and some of our other crime fiction fans I feel I must try it! Thanks for the push, Jose Ignacio.

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