Child’s Play

Famous Books, Famous Names,

Andy Gray – a hero to a legend in the literary world.

Several Wolves favourites have been celebrated in the work of one of Britain’s best known thriller writers.

Andy Gray, Peter Withe, Mark Burke and even managers Graham Taylor and Tommy Docherty are given name checks as characters or places in novels penned by West Midlander Lee Child.

But, sadly, the mentions are not a nod to goings-on over the decades at Molineux – they arise from the author’s lifelong passion for Aston Villa.

That said, the Coventry-born 62-year-old recently revealed on BBC Midlands’ Inside Out programme that it was a towering Derek Dougan header against Albion that got him hooked on the claret and blue.

Such is his devotion that a long list of Villa stars, also including Paul McGrath, Dwight Yorke, John Gregory, Gary Shaw and the much more recent Ashley Westwood, appear in some form in his Fred Reacher series.

Gray had a place in Child’s debut offering from 1997, Killing Floor, a military base called Fort Withe is referred to in The Visitor and Burke, described by the writer in interviews as ‘an industrious midfielder’, can read about his namesake in The Hard Way.

One man who does not figure in any of the books, though, is Gordon Cowans – a mid-1990s Wolves midfielder but Child’s favourite among Villa favourites. It’s as if the hero worship is just too great to take his name in vain.

Child conducted an interview with the player when he stood in as guest editor of Villa’s  match-day programme a season and a half ago.

Author Lee Child.

In the publication for the Premier League home game against Leicester, he kicked off the column by writing: “I have met President Clinton and President Obama, Tom Cruise flew me in his helicopter, I have had dinner with kings, lords, sirs and Oscar-winning actresses, I have watched the Boston Red Sox with Stephen King and I have thrown the ceremonial first pitch at Yankee Stadium. But best of all was an invitation to meet Gordon Cowans at Villa Park.”

Rob Bishop, then the programme’s log-serving editor and a former Birmingham Post and Express & Star journalist resident very much in ‘Wolves country’, summed up: “You will find a Villan of some description in 15 of Child’s (then) 20 Jack Reacher books – and some contain two or three Villa-related characters.”

 

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