Monday, 27 July 2009

Dead Ball

The second Football Detective book is out next week. It's called Dead Ball.

Puffin sent me some advance copies. It looks great. Red and shiny.

The story takes Danny to Moscow to take on an evil Russian billionniare who is deeply involved in football.

I had a great time researching it, finding out about various rich Russian. The best bit was when I went to Moscow to (1) tour the Luzhiniki stadium, where Man U won their 2008 Champions League; and (2) sitting in a posh hotel bar, watching a famous Russian's private army (of 12 men!) keeping the hotel secure. Amazing.

I have given the book to couple of readers already. One lad from Leeds who had been in touch and who will be reading it on holiday in the lake district next week.

If you want to read it, you should be able to get it in most bookshops near you. Failing that, have it. Or

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

My Pledge is...

... that I will only buy Fair Trade chocolate from now on.

I think it is an important thing for me to do.

I eat a lot of chocolate, as you will know if you've seen me on a station in the UK.

Sometimes I will be in a shop that has no fair trade chocolate. If that happens, I plan to ask if they have any fair trade chocolate. Then suggest they stock some.

Virgin trains sell it, which is good.

Fair Trade Chocolate

I am back in Accra after two days in central Ghana, visiting schools and cocoa farms.

It was amazing. I talked to 60 or 70 kids in a school. The school was paid for by money that comes from people in the UK buying Divine or Dubble bars. The kids asked me lots of questions, including... What is your greatest fear?

I told them about my fear of flying. I don't like it. The one I just got off was tiny and felt like it was falling out of the sky at one point.

The best bit was when they asked me to sing Leeds football songs. So I did. Marching on together at full volume on the edge of a jungle. Then they sang some of theirs. Brilliant.

After that the lovely Kuapa Cocoa people took me to a farm to see cocoa trees and how the beans are harvested, dried, fermented and weighed.

We walked through deep forest, past burning fields and into a small farm miles from anywhere. And there we tasted fresh cocoa. Mmmmmmmmmmm.

Nothing like dried, fermented, weighed, cooked, mixed-with-milk. chocolate, but nice all the same.

Now we're off to get on a plane to Rome. Me and my fear.

I can't wait to see my wife and daughter!

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Ghana Match

I'm just back from Heart of Oak v Sporting Mirren, the game that decided the Ghanaian premier league. I won't keep you in suspense any longer: Heart of Oak are the champions!

The game was okay. Not brilliant, to be honest.

But the fans were. They were so up for it. Very noisy. And when it was over they filled the streets with more noise. They were blowing horns, banging drums, waving flags over their heads, everything.

It was weird that a lot of them were wearing English shirts at the game: Chelsea, Liverpool, Man U, West Ham, Everton, etc. No Leeds, which upset me a bit.

Apparently - according to my guides - if they had lost they might have attacked the referee and some officials. Luckily, that didn't happen.

The stadium was mostly without a roof. People were coming round selling nuts, water, ice creams. Overhead, during the first half, I saw a pair of giant vultures. In the second half a large grey UN plane leaving the airport.

Now I can't wait for the English football season to start. 8 August, Leeds v Exeter. I'm taking my daughter.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Football Academy - Africa

I spent a great day today with the Right to Dream football academy players in Accra, Ghana. They are good. Very good.

The amazing men who run the academy took me to some games and got me talking to some of the players. It has been invaluable.

I am here to research a book about a bad football agent who exploits boys in Africa. But this was the opposite. I met a group of men who are doing amazing work to help bring footballers to their potential, both in football and their education. Some of the their players have ended up working with Man U. Others have gone on to get great educations around the world. I was so impressed.

Trips like these really help me write books. I could sit at home and write stories about what I think it is like to be a sixteen year old boy in Ghana who is great at football. But it would be full of errors and cliches. This trip has meant I will make less mistakes.-

They even gave me a lift to the academy in the morning past one of my footballing heroes houses. Tony Yeboah. And tomorrow I'm going to the Ghanaian Premier League decider.

C heck out Right to Dream at

Monday, 13 July 2009

Train Travel

I am in Plymouth to do some events in schools tomorrow.

On the train down - direct from Leeds - I wrote three chapters. They need a lot of work, but I feel pretty good about doing them. I am hoping to finish the full first draft of Off Side before I go to Ghana.

I do a lot of my writing on trains. I like the fact there's not much else to do. Although I was a bit distracted by FIFA 09 for a while.

Saying all that I will have to rewrite a third of the novel once I've been there. I am going to be able to speak to a lot of young people who have travelled from Ghana to the UK. Their thoughts will be invaluable.

It was good to see President Obama in Ghana this weekend. He's a man of good taste.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Ghana in one week...

I am really excited now.

Kuapa Kokoo are a cooperative of farmers who farm the cocoa beans that make Divine chocolate. As well as that they actually own Divine and Dubble, rather than just supply the beans. They are showing me round some farms in the rain forest a week on Monday. I will meet farmers and talk to children in a school. I can't wait. It's all been set up by Divine chocolate.

My daughter's school has kindly asked parents to collect some books to take out there, so my suitcase is full of books, insect repellent and chocolate. Thank you to all the kids and parents for that!

Why chocolate? Because Divine gave me a large box of sugar coated choc eggs and Dubble bars. Most of the kids in the cocoa farms have never tasted the chocolate made with their beans, so I am taking some of that too.

I have read a lot about fairtrade chocolate in preparation. When you buy chocolate you have a choice between knowing the farmers are being paid properly for the chocolate and not knowing, with the risk that some of the chocolate you eat has been farmed by forced slavery.

Have a look at for more info. It's a great website with lots of films interviewing Ghanaian kids.

Calderdale Book Award

Congratulations to Matt Haig who won the Calderdale Book Award last night at an event with 100 Calderdale children.

It was a great day, organised brilliantly by the library service. The kids and the teachers were all really up for a good day. As were the authors.

That's twice Matt's beaten me to a book prize, but I wasn't so upset, seeing as he is a nice man.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Ghana in 2 weeks

I'm going to research Football Detective 3 in Ghana in two weeks. I have had some wonderful help from Divine Chocolate. They are amazing. I hope to be meeting some footballers out there as well as going to some cocoa farms.

The novel is half written. My writing group gave it a good report last week, but it still needs tonnes doing on it. After this coming week I have less events and plenty of time to do that.

I am a bit nervous about going to Ghana. But that is good. When I'm nervous I notice more around me. That will help me write a better book, I hope.

I am happy that there are some family coming to stay with my wife and daughter while I'm away. I always feel guilty goiong on research trips. But not this time.