PONTEFRACT’S squash hero James Willstrop has branched out into the literary world with the publication of an insightful story of what it’s like to be a top sportsman (writes Tony Harber).
Shot And A Ghost (£9.99) features a year in the life of the brilliant squash player in his bid to become the world’s number one.
Unlike many sports books, this one’s written by James himself and benefits from this by being painfully honest as it reveals his innermost thoughts.
James pulls no punches and the reader is really left with real knowledge about what it’s like and what it takes to be a top squash player.
Yes, there’s all the travelling round the world to glamorous cities far removed from Ponte where it all started for James and the delights of winning tournaments and Commonwealth Games medals. But then there’s all the sacrifices he has had to make to get to the top, the endless hours of gruelling practice and the long hours between big games, often spent in hotel rooms.
All aspects come across and by the end of the book you really feel you know James and are rooting for him even if you already know the results of the events he describes.
He has succeeded in giving it a human element and it is far from just a diary of a sportsman as along the way we get to know the man’s true feelings about his ever supporting father and coach, “Malc”, other key figures in his life and the heartbreaking early death of his mother, Lesley.
Then there‘s his on-court rivals, some of which James gets on well with and others he definitely does not. It’s fair to say he won’t be going round to Nick Matthew’s house for dinner any time soon!
And talking of dinner, James also reveals, with some humour, what it’s like to be a top sportsman and a vegetarian.
At times it’s not an easy read as James reveals the mental turmoil the sport can cause. But it’s a rewarding read all the same and while it will have most interest to squash enthusiasts anyone with an interest in sport in general or who has ever wondered what goes on in the head of a top sportsman will get plenty out of Shot And A Ghost.