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Red or Dead: A Novel Hardcover – May 27, 2014

3.0 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* A 700-page, experimental novel about the coach of an English soccer team? A limited audience pretty much guarantees this won’t be a best-seller, which is a bloody shame—it’s a magnificent literary achievement. Peace, the respected British novelist who also wrote The Damned Utd (2006), about the short, controversial tenure of Brian Clough at Leeds United (adapted into a fine film starring Michael Sheen), here tackles Bill Shankly, the legendary man who, from 1959 to1974, transformed Liverpool Football Club from an also-ran into a modern-day powerhouse. Peace’s prose is at first daunting: weaving a dense tapestry of short, declarative sentences, he builds each scene with painstaking, poetic repetition. Whole scenes are repeated with minor variation—and, needless to say, he leaves out quotation marks. (Commas are also in short supply.) But, training session by training session, and game by game (seemingly every game he managed for Liverpool), the pummeling repetition achieves a profoundly powerful effect, like an incantation, bringing to life Shankly’s relentless drive, his committed socialism, his near saintly concern for the fans—and rendering his rudderless retirement all the more poignant. Peace is clearly an admirer, and no matter which team you support, it will be hard to remain unmoved. --Keir Graff

Review

“I’d offer the British P.M. Red or Dead, David Peace’s demented novel about real-life soccer coach Bill Shankly... The novel is barking mad, but quite brilliant, and is a monument to a kind of magnificent decency once at the core of British life, but now rapidly fading."
Kazuo ishiguro, New York Times Book Review

A New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice

“As both postmodern epic and ultimate sports novel, Red or Dead is a winner.” 
Washington Post

Red or Dead is hypnotic, the words casting a spell that verges on the shamanistic….[it] creates the most remarkable, operatic sweeps of emotion in the reader... This is the stuff of great literature.”
New York Times Book Review

“Sprawling, ambitious and heartbreaking, it's one of the best sports novels in recent years."
NPR, Best Books of 2014

10 Best Books of 2014
Janet Potter, NPR's On Point

One of Liberty Hardy's (RiverRun Bookstore) Must-Read Books from Indie Presses for 2014 on Book Riot


“It’s about so much more than soccer. It’s about politics, obsession, community—plus, what could be more British than football?”
Condé Nast Traveler, 10 Books to Inspire Your Next Trip to the United Kingdom

Red or Dead might be seen as an elegy for that period when the game was played by and for the working classes and perhaps even seemed an authentic expression of their collectivist sensibility... In writing an elegy for Bill Shankly’s world, then, Peace suggests that what has been lost goes far beyond sports. Or to put it another way, he shows us ourselves in soccer."
The Millions

“David Peace’s writing reverberates in your head, pulling you along headfirst into the story... Red or Dead is a feat of writing. The manner in which Peace shares this history with us is just as important as the story itself. It’s not often that writing can transport you through style. Peace more than just succeeds in this. He excels."
Preeti Chhibber, Book Riot's Books of the Year

“Truly brave and utterly heroic . . . I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like Red or Dead before. Not ever.”
—The Goldsmiths Prize shortlist citation

“I want to go out and knock on doors like a Jehovah’s Witness and read this book to people.”
The Observer

“A magnificent literary achievement . . . Profoundly powerful.”
—Booklist

“An epic that has more in common with Beowulf or The Iliad than with the conventional sports novel.”
—The Times of London

“The writing is honed, sculpted, poetic . . . It doesn’t matter if you don’t follow the game, this is also a profound investigation of the tension between aspiration and the constraints of time, the very essence of the human condition.”
—Metro

“A book about the choices by which we live and die, the moments that make us feel alive, and those that choke our souls. It is a masterpiece. Make no mistake of that. A masterpiece.”
—The Quietus

“An extraordinary piece of writing.”
—The Independent

“A story of triumph . . . one that might be quoted for decades.”
—Kirkus
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House (May 27, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1612193684
  • ISBN-13: 978-1612193687
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #895,979 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Amazing...long and deeply satisfying read about the great Bill Shankly who took Liverpool from a mere second division has been to the heights of the then first division, winning both at home and in Europe and then retiring at the pinacle of his fame..handling this great club over to his second in command Bob Paisley...who built upon the Shankly legacy and went on to even greater achievements. This book will appeal to those of an age who remember the golden era of football, a time when the "game" stayed close to its working class routes far removed from the capitalist institution it has become today. What makes this a great book is the rather repetitive style of David Peace (which you will either love or hate) and the way you don't only read the book but you live those years with good old Bill!..what marvelous memories......"and fifty thousand people clapping. Two hundred and fifty thousand people shouting. Two hundred and fifty thousand people singing. All singing..LI-VER-POOL, LI-VER-POOL, LI-VER-POOL, LI-VER-POOL, LI-VER-POOL, LI-VER-POOL, LI-VER-POOL Bill fought back the tears, Bill struggled to breathe. Ness gripped his arm, Ness squeezed his hand- I never knew until now, whispered Ness, until today, how much football meant to the people of Liverpool. But you knew, love. You always knew what it meant to the people of Liverpool... LI-VER-POOL, LI-VER-POOL.

There are so many great memories here of football as it was and the great players of the 70's...who does not remember Gary Sprake (the monumental Don Revie Leeds team!)...and his unfortunate tendency to drop the ball!!

"On the right of his own goal, Sprake shaped to throw the ball to Cooper. Then Sprake seemed to have his doubts. Now Sprake seemed to change his mind. Sprake brought the orange ball back towards his chest.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The topic of the book was/is of great interest to myself, Bill Shankly was without doubt one of the greatest managers in football history, and after reading David Peace's book the Damned Utd I was looking forward to this story of a great manager. But the repetitive style in which the book is written makes it very hard to read. The details are all there how he went about dealing with chairmen and players and winning games but you have to read through, I feel, a lot unneeded monotony to get to the story. I'm sure he had a reason for writing in this style, maybe in trying to convey the type of person Shankly was or how he spoke. I would say be careful that you can tolerate this style before purchasing this book.
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Format: Paperback
I have admiration for anyone trying to do something differently regardless of financial consequence, but... What a disaster! What a disaster! What a disaster! What a disaster! What a disaster! What a disaster! What a disaster! What a disaster! What a disaster! What a disaster!

Ok, I got the fact that the maddening repetition was voluntary and not a lack of skill... But what does it achieve really? Can't he get people to feel emotions through his writing, his sensitivity, looking for a touching angle?

So, what did it achieve? For me just anger and page spiking... But I tried to find out what it was all about. There is an interview of Peace explaining that it is to force people going through the entire motions making sure they didn't just fly over facts or emotions... Well,as I already explained it did exactly the contrary on me and I never shrink over difficult books... I shrink over torture though... Since when repeating "At home, at Endfield" every time Endfield is mentioned enhance anything? Since when repeating the attendance stats over and over makes it more real? All I remember is that crowd were between 20 odd thousand and 50 odd, depending of importance of games... No honestly... This book is essentially a bad theory applied with vigour.

I also hate the lazy side of the book as well, half of it is just a boring listing of games from a web site containing, date, goalscorers and attendance... While hardly anything is mentioned about Bill's youth, his playing career or is previous managerial jobs... We know nothing about his daughters or his wife... I know... It is supposed to be a novel... Well it is not!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
David Peace drag you into the had of Bill Shankly in an amazing way of telling this story. I really understood how this amazing team leader could get into the head of his players. Can be read with great pleasure even if you do not have a passion for football.
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Format: Hardcover
Superb book by a brilliant author. Well worth the investment in time required to read it. Very different to the damned united but no less compelling. The author has a wonderful way of evoking the cultural minutiae of Britain in the 60s and 70s through his retelling of the life of this colossal figure. Highly recommended
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Others below have commented on David Peace's choice to write this fictionalized story of Bill Shankley in a very unusual and repetitive style. I think it must have been a brave choice to continue on with this style for over 600 pages. For me there are passages where it really worked and I can appreciate Mr. Peace's artistic license. At other times I found myself skimming ahead to try to keep the thread of the story without reading the book word for word. I love Liverpool FC and just returned from Anfield. I was so looking forward to reading this ,having enjoyed the Damned United very much. I think most will struggle to finish this. In the end Style over substance may not have been the best road for the author to travel with what could have been a very compelling novel.
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