Red or Dead

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The place where the swinging sixties started – Liverpool, England, birthplace of the Beatles – wasn’t so swinging. Amid industrial blight and a bad economy, the port town’s shipping industry was going bust and there was widespread unemployment, with no assistance from a government tightening its belt. Even the Beatles moved to London.

Into these hard times walked Bill Shankly, a former Scottish coal miner who took over the city’s perpetually last-place soccer team. He had a straightforward work ethic and a favorite song – a silly pop song done by a local band, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” Soon he would have entire stadiums singing along, tens of thousands of people all dressed in the team color red . . . as Liverpool began to win . . . And soon, too, there was something else those thousands of people would chant as one: Shank-lee, Shank-lee . . .

In Red or Dead, the acclaimed writer David Peace tells the stirring story of the real-life working-class hero who lifted the spirits of an entire city in turbulent times. But Red or Dead is more than a fictional biography of a real man, and more than a thrilling novel about sports. It is an epic novel that transcends those categories, until there’s nothing left to call it but – as many of the world’s leading newspapers already have – a masterpiece.


DAVID PEACE—named in 2003 one of Granta’s Best of Young Novelists—is the acclaimed author of the Red Riding Quarter (1974, 1977, 1980, and 1983), which was adapted into a BBC television series that was released theatrically in the United States, and is currently being adapted into a major motion picture directed by Ridley Scott. Peace is also the author of the highly praised Tokyo Trilogy, which so far includes Tokyo Year Zero and Occupied City. His book, GB84, was awareded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and The Damned Utd was called “probably the best novel ever written about sport” by The Times (UK). His newest book, Red or Dead, was shortlisted for the UK’s prestigious Goldsmith’s Prize.

“I’d offer the British P.M. Red or Dead, David Peace’s demented novel about real-life soccer coach Bill Shankly… The novel is barking mad, but quite brilliant, and is a monument to a kind of magnificent decency once at the core of British life, but now rapidly fading.”
Kazuo Ishiguro, New York Times Book Review

Red or Dead is hypnotic, the words casting a spell that verges on the shamanistic….[it] creates the most remarkable, operatic sweeps of emotion in the reader… This is the stuff of great literature.”
New York Times Book Review

“Robert Coover, Don DeLillo and David Foster Wallace have shown that it is possible to write ultraliterary, even experimental novels about sports. What they did for baseball and tennis is matched, if not trounced, by what British writer David Peace has done for soccer, first with ’The Damned Utd’ (2006) and now with his massive, mesmerizing ’Red or Dead.’”
Washington Post

“Sprawling, ambitious and heartbreaking, it’s one of the best sports novels in recent years.”
NPR, Best Books of 2014

10 Best Books of 2014
Janet Potter, NPR’s On Point

“It’s about so much more than soccer. It’s about politics, obsession, community—plus, what could be more British than football?”
Condé Nast Traveler, 10 Books to Inspire Your Next Trip to the United Kingdom

“This is a novel about the place of myth and heroes in modern society … about honor and fate, and one which bridges the profound, dreamlike terrain separating one social order from another …. here the author is working in an inspiring, major key … an inspiring, memorable book. ” —Scott Esposito, The Quarterly Conversation

One of Liberty Hardy’s (RiverRun Bookstore) Must-Read Books from Indie Presses for 2014, on Book Riot

Red or Dead might be seen as an elegy for that period when the game was played by and for the working classes and perhaps even seemed an authentic expression of their collectivist sensibility…In writing an elegy for Bill Shankly’s world, then, Peace suggests that what has been lost goes far beyond sports. Or to put it another way, he shows us ourselves in soccer.” —The Millions

“David Peace’s writing reverberates in your head, pulling you along headfirst into the story… Red or Dead is a feat of writing. The manner in which Peace shares this history with us is just as important as the story itself. It’s not often that writing can transport you through style. Peace more than just succeeds in this. He excels.” —Preeti Chhibber, Book Riot’s Best Books of 2014

“A wonderful book. Peace’s writing has an echo built into it, a bit like call and response. The voice he’s given Shankly is genuine and charming… The writing is so engaging, so well done.” —George Carroll, Shelf Awareness

“I’m a Liverpool FC fan and I’m a reader. But here’s the thing. It’s not just great for me. It’s great for anyone who appreciates the written word because let me tell you… David Peace has quickly become one of my favorite writers. The story is important, of course, but it’s how Peace tells it that really makes this such an enjoyable read.” —Preeti Chhibber, Book Riot’s Best Books We Read in March

“It’s hard not to admire its hubris. There is nothing else at all like it out there.” —Publishers Weekly, signature review

“A novel without a single quote in 736 fast-paced pages—but one that might be quoted for decades.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Red Or Dead is a masterpiece. David Peace already has a considerable reputation but this massive, painstaking account of the career of Bill Shankly towers above his previous work.”

“The writing is honed, sculpted, poetic . . . Peace has built what is a worthy monument to a figure light years removed from the megabucks and hype of today’s football. It doesn’t matter if you don’t follow the game, this is also a profound investigation of the tension between aspiration and the constraints of time, the very essence of the human condition.”

“I want to go out and knock on doors like a Jehovah’s Witness and read this book to people.”

“An epic that has more in common with Beowulf or The Iliad than with the conventional sports novel.”
The Times

“Both epic in scale and meticulous in its attention to detail.”

“Peace . . . again proves himself to be magnificently single-minded and unbiddable, and has recognised in Shankly another brilliant and pioneering obsessive of his profession.”
The Guardian

Praise for David Peace and Tokyo Year Zero

“A fierce marriage of mood and narrative drive. David Peace continues to polish and advance his particular brand of literary crime fiction.”
—George Pelecanos

“Part historical stunner, part Kurosawa crime film, an original all the way. David Peace’s depiction of a war-torn metropolis both crumbling and ascendant is peerless, and the story itself is beautifully wrought.”
—James Ellroy

“A fantastic talent.” —Ian Rankin

“An extraordinary and highly original crime novel . . . A truly remarkable work. It is hugely daring, utterly irresistible, deeply serious and unlike anything I have ever read.”
—Justin Cartwright, New York Times Book Review

“Like the novels of Stieg Larsson, Peace’s books are fueled by political passion . . . Genuinely hypnotic . . . It’s no wonder that several critics have compared its mood to Eliot’s The Waste Land.”
—Harper’s Magazine

“Hypnotic postmodern noir of almost unrivaled fury. . . . Expect to be enthralled and maybe amazed. . . . [Occupied City] takes no prisoners.”
—Los Angeles Times Book Review