Review - ITV 7 by James Durose-Rayner


ITV 7 by James Durose-Rayner

Dan Betts
 

Reviewed by Sports Writer and Journalist, Dan Betts

Sequels are usually a bad thing. The general rule of thumb is that when revisiting a good thing, you will either lose what you were chasing or you will fail to capture what was good about the original. Die Hard 2 was a great film, but did it come remotely close to the thrills of Nakatomi Plaza in the first Bruce Willis action-fest?  The same goes for most mediums. Super Mario Bros 2 was abysmal when compared with the first game with the squat Italian plumber. Ditto for the second series of Twin Peaks and the disappointing second series.

So, the lesson to be learned is that if you have a good idea, don’t be tempted to revisit, as it’s never the same.

Well, James Durose-Rayner’s sequel to ‘ I Am Sam’, which is intriguingly titled ‘ITV7‘ bucks this trend by continuing the compelling storyline from the first book and weaving a web so fantastical and laced with football knowledge that it leaves this book able to stand tall next to its predecessor.

The first book – the start of this planned trilogy – which was ‘ I Am Sam’, combined a wonderful storyline filled with drama, heartwarming moments and a fair share of humour, but intertwined with a well researched look at a much-maligned but understood Arsenal player of the 1970’s.

This twist on the conventional football book is what sets it apart from its colleagues in the genre. It was risky but upon reading it, I felt it paid off in spades as the pages whizzed by.

The sequel ‘ITV7’, takes this winning formula and gives it ten cups of coffee and more than a few cans of a well known energy drink. It doesn’t just have wings – it takes you on a carpet ride and it demands you buckle up and hold on tight as it’ll be a fantastic assault on your imagination.

The football part of the book cannot be truly separated from the plotline, they run parallel with each other and the neat segues between each is handled well by the author Durose-Rayner. The writer also ups his workload from the first book of the trilogy as he doesn’t quite concentrate on the one strand of history.

To name but a few of the assorted threads of the footballing past that Durose-Rayner picks at for the reader is the supremely talented Derek Dooley of Sheffield Wednesday and their gifted but unlucky team of the late 1950’s -early 1960’s, the 1964 Betting Scandal and more heavily, the parallels between Arsenal’s seasons of 58/59 and 72/73 – and the research that must have been compiled would make you baulk and pity the writer.

The sheer amount of material that is sprinkled into this book regarding these eerily linked Arsenal campaigns may bog down most books. When reading a typical tome that shares this subject matter, if you happen upon a group of pages that is primarily stats or facts, then it is easily put down and forgotten of. Durose-Rayner again excels as he makes it easy to digest and I found it fascinating as so many players and people from the 1958/59 season would recur in the 1972/73 season and prove again to be thorns in our side – Allan ‘Bomber’ Brown is a perfect example of characters who seemed to return to the scene of the crime and once more heap misery on Arsenal! A misery that all Gooners can identify with at times!

It was the unearthed stories that really greased the wheels of my imagination though. Reading about how our club tried to sign such luminaries of the game in Jimmy Greaves and Denis Law was shocking as it was unheard of in normal fan circles but it was in keeping with the theme of the book as every few paragraphs there was an incident either in the footballing past or in the fictional life of the main protagonist Mr Lee Janes.

The main character at the end of the first book had just got married after a whirlwind romance and even windier run-up to the big day. ITV7 kicks off just after this and the wind sock that was so active in the first book is nowhere to be seen in this sequel – because it blew off its fixtures. The storyline is perhaps the strongest feature of the book and the author paints a picture that is easy to envisage in your minds eye – no easy feat.

It is a myriad of different circumstances and it ups the speed at which Lee Janes lives, and the book profits from it. I won’t include spoilers but the professional and domestic journey he goes on throughout the book is like a breadcrumb trail and it tempts you to read just one more chapter as you eagerly eat up the elaborate yet easy to follow plotlines.

As a football fan, you have many choices thrust upon you in regards to reading material. From blogs to websites, from newspapers to books, all cover a niche in the market. ITV7 does that and more. It has more than enough football facts, interesting stories and stats to satisfy the supporter, and if you want stories and drama, then the fictional storyline that makes up the spine of the book propels the reader at a fair pace through the pages. 

I learnt much from the footballing history that is seamlessly included in this book. I also devoured the pages to satisfy my longing to find out what happens next in the glitzy but domesticated life of the main character and his close circle of friends and family. It satisfies all requirements.

The tangent that Lee Janes’s life goes on in ‘ITV7’ goes stratospheric, and the author describes Janes struggles and highs so vividly. It is impossible not to be swept away in a daydream as you read of his success and the best advice I can give you is to just let the story take you by the hand.

‘ITV7’ has carved a niche of its own with its ‘factual drama’ take on the football book. The final book in the trilogy ‘ Queen of Cups’ is in the works and much like a highly anticipated movie, I’m excitedly awaiting any news on its release.

I have to know what happens next. It would seem that sequels aren’t quite the terrible idea they always promise to be!

You can purchase ‘ITV7’  here. It comes heartily recommended!