Comments by Readers, Teachers & School Librarians

Quotes so far on Fair Game: The Steps of Odessa

I loved it! A brilliant read; I just could not put it down. It’s a book I know I will read over and over again. I totally lost myself as I became first Natasha and then Monika, living their fears; their joys and their dreams. Hilda TilburyIt was an absolutely gripping story; a page turner, extremely evocative.  Harry Mead

I must congratulate you on Fair Game…I have just read it with much pleasure. You have woven together the historical background, the current realities and, of all things, a footballing heroine – and it works, very convincingly…You have researched the Uky background very thoroughly and it carries a worthwhile message. Peter Long

The heroine, Natasha, grows through the book as she faces the threats to her and her father, brother and friends and we can believe in the ending, as it offers a variety of standpoints and doesn’t come up with a slick solution. The dialogue is fast paced and muscular and in its picture of the emerging idealists who are of Natasha’s world, it seems authentic and grounded. Michael Head

It is amazing that you can write academic papers and books for children, as well as a thriller. You are the only person who has this very unusual combination of talents as far as I know. Professor Youichi Ito

Linking a fictional story of a woman's rising football career in the Ukraine with the story of her outspoken journalist father, who resembles not a little the real regime critic who was found beheaded in post-Soviet Ukraine, the author has also produced a gripping adventure story culminating in a tense Day of the Jackal-like assassination standoff above the famed Odessa Steps. The author has skillfully grabbed the attention of young adult readers, and old readers for that matter, and locks them in to an unfamiliar, but by no means remote, political arena which will affect all our futures in many ways beyond football. Tony Williams

I very much enjoyed reading your novel. The present tense keeps the pace moving just as the football moves across the pitch and short sentences, like flashes of thought, keep an immediacy in the unfolding drama. This political thriller has enough ingredients to inform teenagers of how an emerging democracy is still shadowed by its former Russian rulers, and is a reminder for adults of the high cost of a free world. With plenty of snippets of history and packed with teenage thought and action, Fair Game crosses the line between the innocence of football and the intrigues of state security. Jan Scammell

I've finished Fair Game and enjoyed the story very much. It's very exciting. Not surprised that people are saying it's your best. Message is clear and the questions it leaves us with are poignant and stay in your mind. Jeni Whittaker

The book is a neat combination of the Lancashire-born author’s own interests. A lifelong Blackburn Rovers supporter, he has always had a passionate interest in human rights, and a career spent working with young people plus three daughters of his own means he knows how to pitch his writing to capture their interest. Jane Bakowski

The continuous mutations of human infamy are an inexhaustible source for James Watson’s socio-political thrillers. Here we have not a rerun of the Battleship Potemkin, but nefarious goings-on in newly independent Ukraine which are brought to a climax on the Odessa Steps. Oligarchs, an only slightly cleaned-up version of the KGB, and a journalist possessed of incriminating tapes make up the political threat, while the social one celebrates the current New Woman: the journalist’s daughter playing soccer for the nation’s Under-19s and an artist restoring the cupola frescoes of St. Cyril the Lesser with God the Mother and Her Female Apostles. The plot of Fair Game is…very typical of earlier, much-praised narratives by James Watson. Brian Alderson

Other Books

I’ve recently read The Freedom Tree and enjoyed it tremendously…I do admire your ability to deal with the gruesome in a way that acknowledges hard reality, identifies evil and endorses hope and courage; I don’t know anyone who does it so well for the young.’ School Librarian, Hillside School, Boreham Wood.

Talking in Whispers is a book which made a great impact on me when I first read it and I welcomed the chance to read it again and hear your comments and ideas. Divisional Schools Librarian, Hertfordshire County Council.

As you’ll see from the enclosed, my Year 9 students have been reading your novel Talking in Whispers …The book has had a powerful effect on them and we’ve done a great deal of talking and writing about it. They’ve even tried to use your narrative style in creative pieces of their own. Diana Bruce, Head of English, Kidbrooke School, London.

The reality of your book shocked most people in my class, and I think it changed many people’s opinions towards these sorts of circumstances. It made me more aware of the world’s problems.

Throughout the whole story, you have kept us interested which is difficult as we all have different tastes. Some of us have even been tempted to read on when we take these books home to do other pieces of homework.

I am writing to let you know that your book Talking in Whispers is one of the best books I’ve ever read…as soon as I read the first sentence, I was gripped…I think I will try to read more novels, and hopefully, they will be somewhat similar to yours.  Students at Kidbrooke.

I thought I would write to you to tell you of a few of my thoughts on your book Make Your Move…I was pleasantly surprised to have found I completed the book as my record of reading short stories is low, and now I have found I can go into the library and found I can pick up any book of short stories…I found the book extremely enjoyable to read. If I had to name a favourite I think it would be Sir Les of the Windmills, although I found Smiley hilarious. Young reader, aged 13, Fleet, Hampshire

My own favourite was The Freedom Tree and since then I’ve enjoyed Ticket to Prague particularly: it also led me on to read the Czech writer now based in Canada, Josef Skvorecky. English teacher, Medina High School, Isle of Wight.

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