dead heat

Eamonn Magee's 'Lost Soul' joint-winner as William Hill Sports Book of the Year shared for first time

Paul D Gibson’s book on the Belfast fighter triumphed alongside ‘A Boy in the Water’ by Tom Gregory.

‘A BOY IN the Water’ by Tom Gregory and Belfast native Paul D Gibson’s ‘The Lost Soul of Eamonn Magee’ have been jointly awarded the 2018 William Hill Sports Book of the Year.

It’s the first time in its 30-year history that the prize has been shared between two winners. 

“In the 30 years since launching the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award, we have occasionally considered, but never ultimately awarded, a dead heat,” said chair of the judges Graham Sharpe.

“This year, after hours of deliberation, our judging panel found it impossible to separate these two jointly deserving but very different books.”

Gibson’s biography of Irish boxer and former world champion Magee tells the story of a chaotic life in Belfast set against the backdrop of the Troubles. Drink, drugs, gambling, depression, brushes with the law, and the IRA, all halted the rise of this gifted fighter, while he suffered an even greater lost three years ago.

“We were near finished the book and my son got murdered,” Magee said in a revealing interview with The42 earlier this month. 

Magee’s book was published by Irish publishing house Mercier Press.

Gregory’s ‘A Boy in the Water’ explores his experience of becoming the youngest person to swim the English Channel in 1998, aged just 11. 

“The astonishing story of how and why Tom Gregory swam the Channel at such a young age is a memorable and truly one-of-a-kind tale,” said Sharpe.

“We were plunged into the deep waters above and below an impressionable young man being almost coerced into a feat beyond the capabilities of most adults by his maverick coach. We found Tom’s story, his debut book, to be captivating, entertaining and beautifully told, in just 180 brilliantly crafted pages. 

“Equally compelling is the shockingly violent and addiction-prone story of ‘The Terminator’, boxer Eamonn Magee,” Sharpe continued.

“Paul D. Gibson’s rivetingly raw account of Eamonn’s life is packed with tragedy, triumph and wanton self-destruction. It is ultimately a powerful and cautionary tale of one man’s sporting success despite himself.

“Astonishing and utterly gripping, we felt this was a story which attracted and repelled in equal measure but which demanded to be heard, and could not be ignored.”

The £30,000 cash prize will be split equally between the two titles, with both authors receiving a £15,000 cheque, a free £1,000 William Hill bet, and a day at the races.

The nominees for the main award were:

  • Fear and Loathing on the Oche: A Gonzo Journey Through the World of Championship Darts by King ADZ (Yellow Jersey)
  • Tiger Woods by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian (Simon & Schuster)
  • The Boy on the Shed by Paul Ferris (Hodder & Stoughton)
  • The Lost Soul of Eamonn Magee by Paul D. Gibson (Mercier Press)
  • A Boy in the Water by Tom Gregory (Particular Books)
  • Berlin 1936: Sixteen Days in August by Oliver Hilmes (The Bodley Head)
  • Sevens Heaven: The Beautiful Chaos of Fiji’s Olympic Dream by Ben Ryan (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

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