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.

One thought on “Hawkey”

  1. Dick Hawkey was the great wheeler dealer of squash in England in the 1960s and 1970s (and goodness knows when his career started, way before that). In Dick’s later playing years, when I knew him, to suit the lobs and drops that by then constituted his entire tactical repertoire, he carried around in his bag a collection of thoroughly vulcanised balls, probably pre-war. The fastest of these would bounce no higher than an unboiled egg. If Dick’s near namesake, the late Professor Hawking, had got hold of one of these objects he might have been able to announce the discovery of cosmology’s elusive ‘dark matter’, and Dick could have ended up with the Nobel Prize. In the cold gloomy courts he favoured it was difficult to see these balls before they encountered teak-dark floors or walls blackened by decades of play, and if you waited till the non-existent bounce, it was too late. Of course you wouldn’t have seen Dick in the pair of shorts adorning the book that Jim Z has so masterfully picked out!

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