“Close of Play is a wonderful English drama, combining moments that are touching with others that are laugh-out-loud funny.”
John Challis, ‘Boycie’ from Only Fools & Horses and The Green Green Grass
“I stood, entranced, holding the card as I re-read it and gently traced my forefinger over the signature, enchanted at receiving such a rare gift. For a brief, beautiful moment I imagined being there with her, walking on the bleak sandy beach, shaking the sand out of our walking boots and tidying our tousled hair. The sensation disappeared rapidly and all I had was the card, which I placed on the mantelpiece.”
Brian Clarke has an ordered life, a life of village cricket, solid principles, and careful interaction with those around him. He is resolutely fending off advancing middle-age with a straight bat, determined to defend his wicket against life’s occasional fast balls. Then he meets Elizabeth – a gentle, caring, genuinely selfless soul who is a glowing bloom amongst the ordered hedgerows of his existence. As Elizabeth demands Brian’s interest…and breathes hope into his heart…he must reassess his self-defined role as the lone batsmen and fight to find the courage to fall in love. Or risk losing her forever.
Close of Play is a thoughtful, funny, beautifully honest story of love and manners. It’s a tale of missed opportunities and a chance at redemption – and the fear of opening our hearts to another when we think we’ve forgotten how to love.
“I loved this. As with Outside Edge, it’s not just the cricket, it’s old life itself. Will happily commend Close of Play heartily. Howzat?” -Robert Daws, actor
“A refreshing romance; gentle, insightful and very heartwarming. The novel deals with very real people, full of flaws and foibles and combines this with a lyrical style that moves between poetic and comic in turn. I have to confess, I am not a cricket fan, but found the cricket element engaging and actually quite illuminating- who knew sedate cricketers felt like that in bat! This was a thoughtful, feel good read, perfect for a summer’s read on the grass (hopefully with a glass of Pimms!).” – P.K.Church
“I found Close of Play by P.J. Whiteley an absolute delight – such an understated and decorous review of a jolly good, well written book; quintessentially English in an understated way; don’t you know. If you didn’t know small English country towns, if you didn’t know of English eccentrics, country folk, village idiots, the range of pubs they love or avoid, or should avoid, if you didn’t know cricket, especially cricket clubs, first, second and third teams (who play away, always), and how serious cricket is, you will still love this tale as it paints a captivating picture of a myriad of characters all recognisable as absolutely English in their stiff upper lip views, as varied in their bias as much as their intransigence, and their rules of life, sporting etiquette, social manners, and how to court a woman, or not, as the case may be. I leaned into you for a kiss. Did you, I thought you were falling over…the humour is simply to die for darling. I am a city man, generally unnerved in the countryside, especially when faced with ‘good’ English country folk and their manners, but I love cricket and felt safe in Whitley’s expert hands; I could lie back and think of England and enjoy the kaleidoscope of characters in this novel, and their stories. Even if you were an American and had no inkling of cricket, this would be a good introduction to a game that can last forever, a lifetime in some instances, and where you play in a team can often define who you are, or what your nickname says who you are. And then there are the womenfolk and the extended families; not there to watch the grass grow but fully formed characters, most certainly not looking on from the boundary. Close of Play is a love story of a repressed couple, both approaching middle age with their own unique fears, and for their own completely different reasons have emotional baggage to sort; Elizabeth surprises at every turn and is a contrast to what many would call the dullard life of Brian, or is it Colin (Cowdrey), he’s good with the quicks, don’t you know. Elizabeth and Brian are two ‘jolly’ good chalk and cheese souls, both scared in their own way and for different reasons, swimming their lonely lives in the choppy waters of entrenched social moirés, each with their role to play, each with mysteries to reveal, and as these come to light you feel they will not, should not, under any circumstances, be together, but, there is the yearning behind the facade, the cunningly disguised need to be together; oh the pain, it is exquisite. And the ending is as surprising as it is heart warming, and as an inveterate weeping man, I enjoyed shedding more than one tear as I avoided eye contact in my corner of the pavilion. Whatever your usual tastes in books, I recommend wholeheartedly Close of Play, as engaging as it is enchanting, the characters all playing their parts and described in a tantalising way that suggests we may see more of this part of the countryside; treated to more voyeuristic insights into English country life. For me, I would like to hear more of Godfrey, the Vicar who is nervous of revealing just how clever he is, and his lack of appreciating a good nickname, and now, I cannot go into a church without first assessing if the aisle will take spin, or be good for pace; cricket is not a game, it is a way of life…it’s not the winning that counts, nor the taking part, it’s the making fun of everyone…Owzat; who said that?” – Pete Adams, Author of the Kind Hearts and Martinets series
PJ Whiteley, who writes non-fiction as Philip Whiteley, is an experienced author, principally about management. He has written extensively about how low wages are bad for business, as part of a bid to try to convince economists that society consists of people. Taking a break from this Quixotic task, he has turned his hand to romantic comedy, seizing on the potential of men preferring to play or watch sport than talk about their feelings and stuff.
Close of Play is the first novel, centring on perennial themes of the human condition: love, loss, hope, life choices and that nagging feeling in the back of the mind that you may not fully be up to date with how your team is doing.
PJ Whiteley’s boyhood ambition was to represent Yorkshire Cricket Club. He gave up playing as an amateur a few years ago when facing the quicker bowlers became a bit too tricky, but still plays five-a-side football. He works from home full time as an author and is married to a sex therapist, so things could have turned out worse.
Author photo copyright ‘‘Natalia Creative’Read More
Share this page Tweet this page