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Five books to read this summer recommended by Jonathan Main

rontown(s) – the s was lost over time – the football club founded in 1874 by bearded Victorian industrialists, that resides within both the novel Iron Towns by Anthony Cartwright (Serpents Tail £12.99) and the geographical location of the west Midlands, has never had much to celebrate. True there was once, a long time ago, an FA Cup final win at the old Crystal Palace. Between 1895-1914 the final was played at the Palace twenty times, with a record attendance of 120,028 for the 1913 game between Aston Villa and Sunderland. Irontown’s victory is somewhere in that twenty, remembered by ghosts and not many more. More recently there was a failed Championship playoff final, when their star player, Mark Falla, chose to try and chip the keeper with a last minute penalty, from which the opposition went straight to the other end and scored. If you are a Leicester City fan, this may have a certain resonance. Now the club are fighting to stay afloat at the bottom of the football league, the ground and the town is falling, and Mark Falla walks the streets, his boots in the bin. These days most people take him for a drunk. He isn’t one, but he befriends those in the town who are, as though he thinks he knows his place in the scheme of things. His old, estranged, friend and teammate Liam Corwen, the other local talent, the other young hopeful,



who was lined up beside him for that penalty kick, whispering in his ear, don’t try and chip it, has returned home from Finland to play one final season as club captain. He once played for England, for 26 seconds and, most people say, never got a touch of the ball – although, of course, Liam knows otherwise. Twenty years ago they were young footballers with the world at their feet, but somewhere it all went wrong and the fate of the Iron Towns themselves only seem to reflect that undoing – the industries that founded the towns and made those bearded men their fortunes long gone: had it happened overnight, not across forty years, there would be soldiers on the streets, helicopters to drop relief packages all the way up the valley. Instead it is quiet, moss and rust grow on factory gates. There is a long slow drift into silence. Iron Towns is a football novel with a proper sporting cliffhanger of an ending, but it is much more besides: in its use of myth and legend – and a gently heightened reality – it paints a picture of change that is both gradual and sudden. In Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain (Doubleday £12.99) playwright Barney Norris uses a crash in the centre of Salisbury between a scooter and a car, to explore the colliding of five lives across the town. Each of the five speak in their own voice: the electrifyingly cheeky fuck-up Rita the flower-seller; the timid sixteen

The Transmitter Issue 40  

A South London Magazine

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