From Cloughie controversy to Anfield legend - author David Peace’s latest work

Writing about a beloved football manager brought Ossett author David Peace no end of trouble.

The author came in for criticism for his past novel The Damned United , his account of Brian Clough’s frantic 44-days in charge of Leeds

But when it came to writing his latest project, Red or Dead – his fictional telling of Bill Shankly’s life as Liverpool FC manager – Peace never hesitated in tackling the legendary football figure.

He said: “This book is quite different to that of The Damned United in it is a celebration of the man.

“I didn’t write the book for the supporters of Liverpool Football Club but it is a story for every football supporter. Shankly was a man whose life was his work and his work was his life and I wanted to explore why he was so consumed in football.”

Initially, Peace wanted to focus on Shankly’s shock retirement in 1974 shortly after leading Liverpool to FA Cup victory. But after doing his research Peace realised he needed to explore what led up to the shock decision.

Red or Dead begins in 1959 when Shankly joined Liverpool from Huddersfield Town.

It charts how the ex-teenage miner transformed Liverpool from a struggling, second division side to a team on the brink of European glory.

The second part chronicles Shankly’s eight years of struggle between retirement and his death in September 1981.

As well as the football, the novel explores Shankly’s political beliefs and how they informed his view of the world.

The book is Peace’s second football novel after The Damned United.

Following the release of the film in 2009, Clough’s family took exception to what they believed was a negative portrayal of the late manager.

But Peace was keen to tell the tale of another beloved football giant.

He said: “Both managers are iconic figures in football but The Damned United focused on Brian Clough’s worst days in management; this book reveals more about Shankly and what drove him to his success.”


Ossett author David Peace has become a household name.

From The Damned United to the Red Riding Quartet, the writer’s work has been adapted from the page to the big and small screen.

And the writer has often declared many of his novels were based on life growing up in West Yorkshire. One of the lead characters in his book Nineteen Seventy Four lives on Wesley Street, Ossett.

His tales span from when the Yorkshire Ripper was still roaming free to the miners’ strike documented in his book GB84. Many of his novels were set during the time of Peace’s childhood in Ossett.

The Red Riding Quartet, which was adapted into a three-part Channel 4 series that aired in spring 2009, were set in West Yorkshire during the 1970s and early 80s.

Peace’s most decorated work chronicled Brian Clough’s troubled times at Leeds United. Praise for The Damned United led to the 2009 film starring Michael Sheen.

Other credits include being one of Granta’s Best Young British Novelists of 2003 and named GQ Writer of the Year in 2007.