Some of you know by now that I’ve recently released a book called Suited and Booted.
It’s going alright, I’m not really sure how to take it to the next level if I’m honest and an Amazon review the other days knocked me a little bit. You’d be surprised to hear it was three-star, not terrible, but it’s part of my personality to ignore anything positive and always focus on the negative.
It was really pushed into me whilst working for Builder’s Merchants. We were told to ignore praise because praise didn’t help make you better. Therefore, whenever I get a five-star review I appreciate it, but when anything less comes in I fret that my work is crap.
Some of you also know another writer, the excellent Peter from Bury Me in Exile. He’s read my book and offered to do an honest review; Peter is a real wordsmith and last night he sent me this. I thought I’d share it with you, just in case it helps push you towards buying the book!!
Suited and Booted review
Full disclosure: I’m a (pretty new) friend of Gary’s, having encountered him through Twitter as a fellow blogger, but a) I paid for the Kindle version of this book, and b) I’m not a Lincoln City fan, so I have no particular bias when assessing his work.
As the title implies, it mainly revolves around his (very) long stint as Poacher the Imp, the club’s sometimes loved, sometimes shunned by the revolving boardroom door at Sincil Bank, mascot for roughly a generation. That said, it would be a mistake to reduce the ‘autobiography’ down to just Gary adorning the uncomfortable suit. There are plenty of segues into his own life away from his cherished team, and there is often a symmetry to how the fortunes of man and club wax and wane.
Tonally speaking, even if you’re unfamiliar with his other works or his thriving blog on thestaceywest.net, the vocabulary is easy to digest if you tend to read late at night like I do, and you can well imagine him regaling friends and colleagues with excerpts in a social club or pub setting, which makes for a page-turning book.
By far the most prominent theme within is the author’s own struggles with mental health issues, which progressively become more pronounced as the years inexorably tick by, the seeds for which were planted at a moment in time when even had he sought help at the outset, it’s very unlikely he’d have been taken seriously. Thankfully on that, much has changed in the period since, and as a fellow sufferer of anxiety and at times depression, I felt that it could almost have been me that was penning certain passages later on in the book – that’s how closely my own experiences chime with his. He also explains that, at least for him, when he did finally reach out to someone about his struggles, the professional route didn’t work, and that it was actually more down to a combination of an ex-Imps player opening up and a very understanding partner in his personal life that helped him reduce the instances markedly.
Of course, the tome is a goldmine for any Lincoln supporter, as it charts at close quarters the once-perennial fourth tier side’s play-off failures, flirts with relegation to non-league, falling through (and coming back) that trapdoor twice, all the way up to the current meteoric rise under the auspices of the Cowley Brothers in the epilogue.
As you’d probably expect, there are plenty of mascot-related anecdotes – often amusing, occasionally worrying, even moving once or twice, from the ‘Grand National’ races that were repeatedly infiltrated by the nation’s favourite tabloid (stop laughing at the back), covering up urinating on the hallowed turf in front of thousands via a one-two combination of the sprinkler system and a club official, being one of a score of adult men in full club costumes mistakenly bursting into a church in Shrewsbury whilst a service was still in progress… it’s all in there, and the detail of these events is truly impressive, even when you account for the book being in gestation almost as long as he adorned Poacher.
From a narrative point of view, that is where ‘Suited and Booted’ is weakest. As another reviewer pointed out, it can from time to time feel as though it’s more of a collage than a piece of art completed in one true sitting, and it could do with a few minor edits – one prime example being the recollection of a conversation with another mascot, quoted as being 16 years old. In the very next paragraph, the same person is 17 whilst still recalling the same interaction. These are minor quibbles in the grand scheme of things, and it must be remembered that the book is self-published, and far cleaner from an editorial perspective than many, many other e-books I’ve had the (mis)fortune to read on Kindle.
I take issue with that same reviewer’s description of ‘Suited and Booted’ being depressing, however. Even if it was, it’s a classic mistake to equate that with bad or unenjoyable. There is much entertainment to be gained from reading it, and Gary skilfully balances his candidness with avoiding overindulgence. Two disparate personalities emerge – the jovial Poacher, full of japes and (often) life of the party, and Gary Hutchinson – the reclusive, passive-aggressive figure who would think little of initiating long drinking sessions that did little to improve his overall mood or bank balance.
There is also the struggle for recognition as an employee of Lincoln City whilst donning the ‘little’ devil suit. Excepting the free entry performing afforded him at home and sometimes on the road, there were few tangible perks to the role. It should be pointed out that he is at pains to explain he never sought pay for the role (especially when finances at the club were tight), but you’d still like to believe more could’ve been done for his 19 or so seasons other than a nice send-off; the isolation and lack of basic care he received are sure to have exacerbated his self-esteem wobbles.
Thankfully, the denouement is much more positive on and off the pitch, with Gary finding satisfaction in his career after retiring as Poacher, through writing and teaching; a stable personal life with loved ones and family nearby, and bearing witness to the strongest position Lincoln City have been in for almost as long as the author’s been alive – yes, really!
I recommend it to any football fan who has seen their side have more bad spells than good, or who has had to worry about whether they’ll still even have a club to watch the following season (something I’m experiencing right now, as a matter of fact). But even people who don’t especially enjoy the beautiful game will glean something – Gary’s path to contentment has been a very long and winding road, and it’s difficult not to take inspiration from that as I attempt to find my own equilibrium down a similar path.
If that’s whetted your appetite, you can buy the book on the widget below. Or the one above. Or the one in the sidebar.