For the third time in the past two decades, I made my way to Hay-on-Wye. It is one of my favorite places: a tiny hamlet on the borderlands between England and Wales that has over thirty used bookstores. In the past, I was able in Hay to discover prized, rare copies of a number of classic squash titles, including Janet Morgan’s 1953 Squash Rackets for Women and Jonah Barrington’s 1982 Murder in the Squash Court.
This summer, the pickings were a bit slimmer (when I was last there in 2002, pre-Internet, Hay boasted over forty bookstores). But I did get, at one of the most famous of Hay’s bookstores (the Hay Cinema Bookshop) two copies of Richard Hawkey’s Beginner’s Guide to Squash.
Hawkey was a leading English referee and longtime World Squash Federation leader; he died in 1991. (Years ago I also got at a used bookstore his 1980 Squash Rules, Marking and Refereeing opus, perhaps the only bonafide book ever published on the subject.)
One of the Beginner’s Guide books was the 1973 hardback, with a rather pedestrian cover. The other was the much rarer 1975 paperback, with one of the greatest squash-book covers I know: the tight, tight shorts, the Fred Perry shirt, a ring on his pinkie and perhaps a Gray’s of Cambridge racquet? Most of all, I love the steely, clenched-jaw look of our player. Ready for anything.