Sudden Death, the latest title in the Roy of the Rovers series is a book full of love, both for the beautiful game football can be and, poignantly, for a father too. A story not only for football fans.
Last season saw Roy Race and his teammates suffer the loss of their beloved stadium after it burnt to the ground, and an ownerless Melchester Rovers on the brink of being shut down. The new season brings fresh hope with the arrival of new owners, intent on rebuilding Mel Park and restoring the club as one of the biggest in Europe. But a new start also means new challenges for Roy, his sister, Rocky, their family, and their teammates, and Roy is also coping with his Dad’s worsening illness.
Tom Palmer’s knowledge of football, with subtle references to clubs, players and aspects of the game, is apparent throughout the story and is something that fans will recognise and enjoy. The exciting, detailed descriptions of games are so good that some TV football commentators could learn from them! This knowledge and the manner in which it is conveyed will draw in readers who may think books are not for them. However, the heart of the story and the part that gives this story its emotional impact is centred on Roy and his family.
Roy’s experiences and those of his father, mother and sister, and their relationships with each other, are touching and conveyed in a direct narrative style that matches Roy’s personality. He is an organised character, liking to feel in control of situations but at the same time with a strong sense of right and wrong. His values and attitudes are key to his coping strategy as he tries to keep his home situation separate from his football career. Sometimes a few words are more affecting than pages of descriptive introspection and in this book that approach works, moving this particular reader to tears in the final chapters. Tom Palmer manages to convey so much of Roy’s personality in a sentence or two. For example at a particularly difficult and emotional moment in the story he is given a lift home in a car, then, ‘’Roy climbed in, placing his feet carefully so he didn’t muddy the floor on the Mini.’’ Oh, Roy, I thought, as I read. I wanted to hug him.
This is a terrific football story but it is much more than that. It is about family, about love and about how to cope when those most important things are threatened. In the author’s thank you section at the end of the book Tom Palmer says that his dad liked books and now he’s in one. He’s in a good one.
Sudden Death is published on 30th September by Rebellion. Another in the series that you may enjoy is one featuring Roy’s sister Rocky. Among Tom Palmer’s historical novels is D-Day Dog which features a boy and his Dad. Tom’s excellent website also includes a range of resources and stacks of information about the Roy of the Rover series.