FEATURE: Full steam ahead, insists Scratching Shed boss as book publisher celebrates its third birthday

Neil Barraclough

Scratching Shed Publishing is approaching its third birthday, with co-director Tony Hannan telling Rugby League Books that there will be no let up in the company’s prolific output of rugby league titles.

Lee Crooks’ autobiography, From Hull to Hell and back, is among the books Scratching Shed are set to release in the imminent future.

And Hannan, who along with colleague Phil Caplan has helped to establish Scratching Shed, is busily preparing the company’s next moves after their recent launch of Forty-20, a new monthly rugby league magazine.

Hannan said: “If we’d have known we’d be where we are now when we first launched Scratching Shed then we’d have been very happy, because we’re still going for one thing. That’s an achievement in itself bearing in mind the market we’re in and the ongoing recession.

“We’re just about coming up to our 30th book. What we wanted to do with Scratching Shed was to bring books out about northern English culture that have a wider appeal and talk to a national or international audience.

“Rugby league fits in with us because both Phil and I are big rugby league fans, and it’s a subject we know a lot about.

“It was always likely that rugby league titles would form a big part of our catalogue, but we also identified a gap in the market.

“We wanted to produce books that read as professionally as any others, because one of the things that rankled with me was that some of our biggest names weren’t give the respect, from a literary point of view, that other sportsman would have been given. Hopefully we’ve achieved that.”

Romping read

Key to the company’s success has been its rapid output, with new titles appearing at the rate of roughly 10 a year – a staggering figure for a small, independent publishing house.

Hannan said: “We’ve just released Ronnie Teeman’s book, A Lawyer for all Seasons. Ronnie’s a former RFL president and his tale makes an interesting read.

“But the next one out, Lee Crooks’ autobiography, is an absolutely romping read that I think people will really like.

“Our plans for new books are ongoing, and the magazine (Forty-20) will take us up to another level. The response to that has been great, and now we’ve just got to kick on. We’ve got plans for other books and possibly other magazines, so we’ll certainly be keeping busy.”

Scratching Shed Publishing’s rugby league titles include:

From Hull to Hell and back… Lee Crooks’ autobiography
– by Vince Groak and Lee Crooks
Border City Blues, the story of Carlisle rugby league
– by Alan Tucker
Ray French… and rugby
– by Ray French
Reluctant Hero – The John Holmes Story
– by Phil Holmes Jr and Phil Holmes Sr
Mr Rugby Leigh – The Tommy Sale Story
– by Andy Hampson
1895 & All That… Inside rugby league’s hidden history
– by Tony Collins
Down and Under
– by Dave Hadfield
Tries and Prejudice – The Autobiography of England’s First Muslim Rugby International
– by Ikram Butt