Hillsborough: A Brief Review Of ‘With Hope In Your Heart’ by Christopher Whittle

January 14, 2013

by Martin Odoni

(Re-post and re-edit of a review posted to Amazon.co.uk. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Hope-Your-Heart-Christopher-Whittle/dp/0755214781/ )

Official book description:-

THE HILLSBOROUGH DISASTER – Saturday, the 15th of April 1989 – when 96 innocent men, women and children lost their lives, in Britain’s worst ever sporting disaster. WITH HOPE IN YOUR HEART: A HILLSBOROUGH SURVIVOR’S STORY, THE DENIAL OF JUSTICE & A PERSONAL BATTLE OF PTSD – is the REAL, SHOCKING STORY OF HILLSBOROUGH. It is unique as it is written through the eyes of a survivor. It is told by someone who witnessed at first hand all the death and carnage from Pen 4 – one of the two central pens in which the majority of the 96 died. It shockingly tells of the glaring police failures, the lies, the cover ups, the fabrications, the suppression of evidence and the blatant denial of justice over almost a quarter of a century in the biggest single miscarriage of justice in the history of the British legal system. It tells of the bravery of the survivors and the bereaved families in their quest for truth and justice, and tells the shocking reality of what lengths that government, the police, the judiciary, writers and the media will go to, in order to hide the truth.

My view:-

Christopher Whittle is not a professional writer*, and he wrote this account, not for literary or commercial reasons, but to give himself a catharsis from his past trauma. Sadly it does rather show, for this is an awkward, at times inarticulate work, which shows unfortunate symptoms of being published without the help of an outsider editor. There are spelling mistakes, questionable word-selections, a tendency to jump from subject-to-subject, and an overriding tone of aggressive-defensiveness, which, although understandable given everything Whittle has been through, is to the book’s detriment. Also mildly brow-furrowing is Whittle’s needless habit of ‘highlighting’, for the benefit of the reader, any moments of comic-relief by punctuating the relevant sentences with triple-exclamation-marks. Frequent and unnecessary capitalisation of words for the sake of emphasis, a habit of writing that really should be left behind in the schoolroom, also detracts from the text’s readability. Less sympathetic readers may come to regard his writing style as petulant, whiny, or even, in a strange way, somewhat bullying, in tone. It is entirely unintended, I am sure, but even so, there is an unmistakeable air of a writer who does not wish to be argued with.

While the book is still a valid addition to the wide body of written work available on the subject of the Hillsborough Disaster, and does have a few useful personal insights to offer on the background to what happened, the actual description of the events on the day of the Disaster is far too brief and feels rushed. Whittle may still be too traumatised by the memories to be willing to dwell on them, which again is entirely understandable, but ultimately his account offers only a cursory summary of what happened on the day, one that imparts very little useful information that cannot be found from countless other sources.

Whittle not only offers his memories on Hillsborough, but also offers his thoughts on the Heysel Disaster of 1985 (at which he was not present). Now his views on it are sustainable, but are perhaps a little one-eyed. He claims, as though it is a matter of categorical certainty, that the tragedy in Brussels was provoked by the Juventus fans and not the Liverpool fans. To be clear, this version of events is entirely possible; there are famous assertions from various independent eyewitnesses that a young Liverpool fan, stood in the wrong section of the terrace where the riot broke out, was being attacked by Italian supporters, and other Liverpool supporters only started fighting when they moved to intervene. However, it is only a possible explanation of what happened, one that has never been established as definitive **, and Whittle is perhaps guilty of being defensive of his club colours by making it sound as though it has.

Later sections of the book discuss Whittle’s post-Hillsborough struggles with Post Traumatic Stress, not to mention the cruel brutality of battling against the vicious smear campaign in the police and media against the victims. These parts are actually better-written and, perhaps ironically, more moving than his description of the Disaster itself. Maybe this is just because the struggle with PTSD is the aspect of the story that is most unique to himself, but whatever the reason, these chapters add a much-needed air of earnestness that earlier chapters lack, and it is really at this point that the reader will start to feel a deep sympathy for what Whittle has gone through.

Towards the end, Whittle offers a list of people he holds responsible for the Disaster. Some of his assertions, especially one he makes against Margaret Thatcher, really need reliable sources. Unfortunately, what endnotes the book has are so broadly-framed that it is extremely difficult to verify any specific claim Whittle makes.

Would I recommend the book? Well, it depends on what you are looking for. Strangely, as a source or authority on Hillsborough, or even on stadium disasters more widely, ‘With Hope In Your Heart’ is of very limited value or use, at best. It is equally meagre fare when judged purely as a work of literature. However, if we remove it from the context of the ‘Hillsborough library’ so to speak, and instead view it as an insight into the long-term struggles of coping with trauma, and of battling against unfair public stigmatisation, it becomes worthwhile. And to anyone who is new to studying the Hillsborough Disaster, it would provide an adequate ‘starter’ that covers the basics, albeit not a terribly well written one.

All-in-all, it is just about worth a look, but it adds little to public knowledge, and is a very uneven read.

* Whittle in fact states that he is working on writing some fiction titles for the future under the pseudonym ‘Christopher Corcoran’, so perhaps he is planning to turn pro. Mind you, what point there is in using a pseudonym when he just goes and announces it on the Internet in his real name, I really cannot say…

** To give my own position on the causes of the Heysel Disaster; my suspicion is that this version of events is probably correct, for two reasons. One, there are different witnesses who claimed to have seen it, and they appear to have arrived at the same conclusion completely independently of one another. Two, it is the only version of what happened at Heysel that I have ever heard that gives a clear ‘trigger’ moment for the start of the fighting. Most other versions tend just to be fans from one side or the other pointing at their rivals and crying out, “Well, they started iiiit! They were throwing stones at us! They charged at us!” etc. To be fair, these versions are also likely to be true as far as they go, but the people saying them are probably unaware of what the stones that struck them were being thrown in response to. The story of the Liverpool boy being attacked by Juve fans would certainly account for the earliest missile-throwing, and the Juve fans attacking him would be the result of typical football-fan territorialism.

Even so, the story is not definitive because evidence is so vague, and the fact that nobody has ever been able to establish what happened to the boy whom the Ultras were supposedly attacking – no dead body (he clearly was not one of the thirty-nine people who died running away from the fighting), no trace on hospital reports, and he has never come forward in the twenty-eight years since to set the record straight – means it has to be treated with rather more caution than Whittle’s writing allows for.

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POSTSCRIPT 18-1-2013

Christopher Whittle has responded to this review as posted on the Amazon website. Now with his history of censoring people who disagree with him, I thought it best I copy-&-paste the developing ‘discussion’ onto this page, just in case he finds a way of convincing Amazon to remove my review. Please be aware, the following text is complete and unedited; –

Christopher Whittle: “Are you a writer? The work is far from child like. Verification? Read the Taylor Report, read the Hillsborough Independent Panel Report, read other publications. The work is all fact. If you look at what is written you can clearly see it ties in with all of the recent evidence submitted by the Hillsborough Independent Panel. I feel that the reviewer has some bias against the writer. Check out the other reviews, and the fact that the book has sold very well, not just purchased by Liverpool fans but the general public and non-football fans.”

Martin Odoni: “Are you a READER, Mr Whittle? I didn’t say the work as a whole was child-like, I was referring to your habit of CAPITALISING FOR EMPHASIS.

Whoever told you I haven’t read the Taylor Report or the Report of The Hillsborough Independent Panel clearly does not know me. My point about verification is that when you make an assertion, you are supposed to be provide a specific citation. Saying, “Look at the Hillsborough Independent Panel Report” doesn’t cover that, as the Report is hundreds of pages long. You need to provide not just the report’s name, but also a page and a section number. You do that with precisely nothing that you assert in the book. Hence, you claim that Thatcher said she wanted to make sure no policeman was convicted for Hillsborough. Where is your evidence for this? It sure doesn’t mention it in the Taylor Report.

Your response to my review seems deeply defensive. If, as you claim on your profile, you are planning to write more books, you are going to have to get used to receiving occasional negative reviews. It just goes with the territory; not everybody is going to like everything you write.

I have read the other reviews, thank you. I respect their opinion, but I do not altogether agree with them. I am under no obligation to do so.

The book may have sold well, but that does not necessarily make it an accurate or top-quality book. It’s a fair bet that most of the people buying it won’t actually have read it until after they have a copy of it.

Perhaps you could try taking things a little less personally, and just take some feedback on board?

Incidentally, if I was holding a grudge against you, as you, in your paranoia, are complaining, why would I give your book three stars instead of only one? Why would I describe it as ‘worthwhile’, at least in some circumstances, instead of advising people not to buy it?”

Christopher Whittle: “If you are trying to come across as all intelligent you have failed, miserably. This was the first piece of writing that I have had published, at my first attempt. The publishers deemed it as acceptable and good enough to be published, and I do not see how you can mask behind a very debatable ‘professional reviewer’ persona, trying to use big words and points that go beyond the realms of fantasy. It is all FACT what is written in the book. I know this through my own experiences and wealth of knowledge of Hillsborough. Of course it is accurate. As I have previously stated, the evidence in the book ties in with the Independent Panel’s findings, which were released a few months after my book was published. And it is also a known FACT that Thatcher did say those things about protecting the police. What part of the TRUTH do you not understand?”

Martin Odoni: “If you are trying to come across as all intelligent you have failed, miserably” – It never takes you long to retreat into ad hominem, does it?

“This was the first piece of writing that I have had published, at my first attempt. The publishers deemed it as acceptable and good enough to be published” – Acceptable, yes. That sort of tallies with my use of the word ‘worthwhile’. That doesn’t mean it’s actually ‘very good’.

“and I do not see how you can mask behind a very debatable ‘professional reviewer’ persona, trying to use big words and points that go beyond the realms of fantasy.” – I have never claimed to be a professional reviewer. For you to try and force such a pretence on me is just plain dishonest of you.

“It is all FACT what is written in the book.” – Says the person who wrote it. Ever heard of the term, ‘circular reasoning’?

“I know this through my own experiences and wealth of knowledge of Hillsborough. Of course it is accurate.” – I’m not disputing anything you state *within the confines of your own experiences*.

“As I have previously stated, the evidence in the book ties in with the Independent Panel’s findings, which were released a few months after my book was published.” – Are you paying attention, Christopher? I wasn’t necessarily saying that what is in the book is inaccurate. I said, it does not include citations. When you make assertions outside your realm of first-person experience, you need to *cite your sources*. Your book does not do that, except in extremely broad terms. Telling people, “Go look at the Taylor Report” etc is not a citation. You need to make clear which part of your sources you are referring to.

” And it is also a known FACT that Thatcher did say those things about protecting the police.” – No, it is not. It is a possibility, no more than a very common rumour, and once upon a time I believed it myself. Nowadays I am unconvinced, because every time I try to find a source for it, I come up blank. Every time I ask the people who keep announcing it – people like you – they keep dodging the question – again just like you have even on this discussion thread.

“What part of the TRUTH do you not understand?” – I understand the truth very well. Do you understand it? Do you understand, for instance, that claiming something is a fact when you have never been able to cite any evidence supporting it is lying? [And] it is a frequent mistake to think that if you put words like ‘fact’ or ‘truth’ in capitals, that somehow makes them more definitive. Instead, it just makes you look like you’re trying to bully people into agreeing with you; see the point I made in the review.

By the way, I paid for a copy of your book out of my own money. That means I am your customer. If you are going to take this attitude with paying customers when they give you feedback, you will lose a lot of readers.

Christopher Whittle: “What sickens me about this over elaborate, mythical review, is that the reviewer not only has no clue about Hillsborough, he also quite clearly does not have any idea about writing and indeed, forwarding a proper review. He describes my work as cathartic, yet does not back up this statement. He also needs to read other publications, most notably the Hillsborough Independent Panel Report, which, as I have previously stated, ties in perfectly with my book. He describes my writing as ‘child like’ in what sense? That is so very wide of the mark. He claims that my description of the actual day of the disaster as ‘not very moving.’ Well, Mr. High and mighty Odoni, I have had comments from bereaved families and survivors who actually praise my description of the day as totally factual and beautifully written. He describes the book as having no value in relation to other books written about Hillsborough. What utter rubbish. It is the first book written about the disaster through the eyes of a survivor. I have had nothing but positive comments from everyone who has bought the book. I would really like to know what literary experience Mr. Odoni has? Or maybe he just likes to play with words. Maybe, just maybe, he holds a vengeful grudge against me because I removed him from a Facebook page a few months back due to his behaviour, his arrogance, and his disgraceful attitude. And yes, the evidence is all there about Hillsborough and what and who caused it. And yes, I will point out AGAIN that Thatcher stated, ‘I do not want any policeman prosecuted over Hillsborough.’ There are some secret papers which were not revealed to the Hillsborough Independent Panel, regarding government meetings. We are still pressing for those to be released. Next time you want to challenge someone, Mr. Odoni, please make sure it is not someone who was not only at Hillsborough, but who also has a breadth of knowledge of the disaster, the aftermath, the lies, the cover ups, the smear campaigns, and who has been involved in the campaign for justice for many years.”

Martin Odoni: “”What sickens me about this over elaborate, mythical review, is that the reviewer not only has no clue about Hillsborough” – – – How would you know whether I have a clue about Hillsborough? You have never made any attempt to assess my knowledge. All you are doing is being patronising.

Not the first time I’ve caught you doing that, is it, Whittle?

What’s so ironic about all your ad hominem aggression and dishonesty, is that if you ever paused to find out what my actual opinions on Hillsborough are, you’d find I in fact agree with you on about 99% of it. The only bit I don’t agree with you on is the subject of whether Margaret Thatcher actively colluded in the cover-up.

“he also quite clearly does not have any idea about writing and indeed, forwarding a proper review.” – – – By ‘proper review’, you mean, ‘a review that tells the author how wonderful he is’, or ‘a review that blindly agrees with everything the author says’.

Whittle, a proper review is where the reviewer says what he/she really thinks of it, and backs it up with an explanation why. I would say I have done so. Your objection isn’t about how ‘proper’ my review is, it’s because you just don’t like criticism.

“He describes my work as cathartic, yet does not back up this statement.” – – – You know, it seems very strange that you find that word objectionable. Do you even know what cathartic means?

[NOTE not from the argument itself: Just to point out, catharsis does appear to be the gist of what is said in this interview Whittle gave to a local newspaper in early-2014, which describes the book as “a bid to overcome his demons.”]

“He also needs to read other publications, most notably the Hillsborough Independent Panel Report” – – – You clearly should not be an author, as being an author requires literacy, and it is increasingly obvious from your remarks that you cannot read. I have already stated very clearly that I *have* read the HIP Report.

“which, as I have previously stated, ties in perfectly with my book.” – – – Well actually it doesn’t quite – for instance, you state in the book that Thatcher definitely aided the cover-up and that the documentation the Panel were studying would say so, whereas the HIP have explicitly stated that there is no evidence of that at all.

But anyway you keep deliberately ignoring my point. I never actually said that your assertions are wrong as such, What I said was…

YOU DON’T PROVIDE CITATIONS IN YOUR BOOK.

Whether your assertions are accurate or not is beside the point. You don’t provide a clear reference point for any specific assertions you make. The only references in the Bibliography at the end of the book just name publications, but you never state where any particular assertion you make can be verified.

“He describes my writing as ‘child like’ in what sense?” – – – No, I didn’t use that term. You did. I said – and again I’ve already corrected you on this in an earlier comment – your habit of CAPITALISING FOR EMPHASIS is a schoolchild habit. I did not say your writing as a whole was like that, just your needless capitalisation of words.

“He claims that my description of the actual day of the disaster as ‘not very moving.'” – – – No I didn’t. You’re just lying now. You claim to be a devoted Catholic, and here you are, breaching the Ninth Commandment left right and centre. I said your description of the day was too brief and feels rushed.

“Well, Mr. High and mighty Odoni, I have had comments from bereaved families and survivors who actually praise my description of the day as totally factual and beautifully written.” – – – I’m glad they enjoyed it. Sadly, I do not altogether agree with them, and I repeat that I am under no obligation to do so. Nor am I under any obligation to remain silent about it.

Could you please stop resorting to bandwagon fallacies? They prove nothing.

“He describes the book as having no value in relation to other books written about Hillsborough.” – – – No I didn’t. I said it is of *limited* value, not of no value at all.

If you’re so sure that you’re in the right and I’m in the wrong, why do you feel the need to keep misquoting me?

“It is the first book written about the disaster through the eyes of a survivor.” – – – And that is the limited value it offers. But that’s all. More importantly, it really doesn’t tell us anything that can’t be found in loads of other sources. This may be the first *book* from a survivor, but it is a very, very long way from being the first account to reach the public domain. Consider Rogan Taylor’s book, “The Day Of The Hillsborough Disaster“, just for one. It contains many survivor accounts.

“I have had nothing but positive comments from everyone who has bought the book.” – – – And now you have had a couple of negative ones. (Well, half-negative. Seeing I described your book as ‘worthwhile’, it clearly hasn’t been castigated.) Live with it. Take them on board. Stop being so bloody egotistical that you feel that you have a divine right to go uncriticised.

“I would really like to know what literary experience Mr. Odoni has?” – – – Ah, interesting double-standard here. Have you challenged the people who have given you positive feedback for their credentials? Or did you accept their praise wholeheartedly and without pausing to ask? Is it only when someone says they have negative feedback as well that you start asking for quaifications?

If you go to a restaurant and don’t enjoy the meal, would you expect the chef to take your complaint on board? Or would you expect him to point to the kitchen and cry out, “Well let’s see you do any better!!!”

No, I am not a published writer, (although I do write on a non-professional basis, and have had fictional scripts turned into radio plays) but it’s beside the point.

The point is, I *paid* for a copy of your book. That’s money in your pocket from mine, which means I am your customer, therefore I am entitled to give feedback.

You just can’t take criticism, or people disagreeing with you, can you?

Grow up, Whittle.

“Maybe, just maybe, he holds a vengeful grudge against me because I removed him from a Facebook page a few months back due to his behaviour, his arrogance, and his disgraceful attitude.” – – –  Yes, well if you’re going to drag that up, I will now link to a blogpage I wrote itemising what *really* happened on that FB page. Your liberal over-use of foul language, dishonesty, intimidation and high-handedness will be there for all to see. Including your decision to delete people’s comments – not just mine – when they were not convenient to you.

https://thegreatcritique.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/hillsborough-whittles-claim/

Note that another user who witnessed the dispute has commented, confirming that my description of the argument is accurate.

“And yes, the evidence is all there about Hillsborough and what and who caused it. And yes, I will point out AGAIN that Thatcher stated, ‘I do not want any policeman prosecuted over Hillsborough.'” – – –  Yeah yeah, we know that you said that. What I’m asking for is a citation of evidence that she said it. It doesn’t become true just because you say so, no matter how many times, or how stubbornly, you keep repeating it.

“There are some secret papers which were not revealed to the Hillsborough Independent Panel, regarding government meetings. We are still pressing for those to be released.” – – – So in all that self-righteous ranting, you now admit that you don’t have a source for the quote. Are you by any chance just *guessing* that it’s in the papers that weren’t released?

I will also point out that in the past you have claimed that you were there when she said it. And yet you don’t mention that detail in the book, nor on this thread. So obviously that was another lie on your part.

Interesting that you keep pontificating in the name of the truth, and yet you feel it was okay to lie about that.

“Next time you want to challenge someone, Mr. Odoni, please make sure it is not someone who was not only at Hillsborough, but who also has a breadth of knowledge of the disaster, the aftermath, the lies, the cover ups, the smear campaigns, and who has been involved in the campaign for justice for many years.” – – – And, apart from the bit about physically being at Hillsborough, which I openly state I was not, what makes you think those descriptions don’t apply to me? Do you really imagine I haven’t studied anything about Hillsborough?

I have studied Hillsborough, and I have supported the justice campaigns, for over twenty years. Keep in mind that that means I have supported *you* in that time.

Am I the only one who, when reading Whittle’s responses, is reminded of the Shakespearean phrase, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks”? Most of his arguments are appeals to false authority and bandwagon fallacies e.g. the book sold well, therefore it must be a reliable source; the publishers approved it, therefore it must be a good book; Whittle was at Hillsborough, therefore everything he says on any subject connected to Hillsborough must be accurate; large numbers of people believe such-and-such an idea, therefore the idea must be true etc. (Given his own struggles against the urban myths of Hillsborough over the last quarter of a century, Whittle of all people should be keenly aware of the dreadful untruths that can prosper when this sort of ad populum fallacy is given credence.) His paranoid complaints of bias are laughable, given that some of the accusations he makes in his book are unsupported, and yet he maintains they are fact – sorry, I mean, he maintains they are FACT – for no better reason than his own towering certainty. In other words, he has prejudged them, and he cannot bear being made to rethink. What greater bias is there than that?

The sad truth in all these nasty exchanges between myself and Whittle is that there is very little reason for them. He simply has to do one of two things to settle the dispute. One, he can admit that he has no source for his claim, and that therefore the Thatcher quotation is nowhere near as definite as he has been making out. Two, if he really does have a source, he could stop stalling and finally tell me what it is; I have asked him again and again and again for a dependable source for the quotation, and he has only ever answered once, and that was with a flagrant untruth; he claimed he had been present when Thatcher said it, a claim that is implausible, and that does not even tally with the contents of his own book (which makes no mention of him ever being in her presence at all). (See https://thegreatcritique.wordpress.com/2012/10/28/hillsborough-more-on-thatcherthat-quote-that-never-goes-away/  and https://thegreatcritique.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/hillsborough-whittles-claim/.) I am quite confident he has no real source though, because quite simply, if he had, he would have cited it by now, and he would not have resorted to lying.

Ultimately, Whittle’s objections to my review betray his own insecurity. It has become very clear to me in recent exchanges with him that he cannot endure being criticised or argued with. He cannot tolerate honest, constructive feedback that tells him that the quality of his writing was, at best, indifferent. Nor can he tolerate the suggestion that he might be wrong on any Hillsborough-related issue. To this end, he shows that he is perfectly prepared to attack his own readers when they say they are unimpressed. Effectively at his bidding, I bought his precious book – the book he has pompously invoked as what makes him an unbeatable authority on Hillsborough – making me his customer, so to speak. Surely as a paying customer, I have a right to say what I genuinely think about what he wrote? No, Whittle has taken angry exception, and once again he tries to compel me to agree with him, and to say what a fine piece of literature it is. If I say anything different, he gets angry, accuses me of pretending to be what I am not, and pours scorn on my intelligence.

Whether he is right about my intelligence or not – and I have made no claim one way or the other about that – the reality is that his accusations are wrong. I did my very best to write a considered and objective review of his work. This included stressing that his traumatic past and circumstances, as well as his inexperience, are extenuating factors when considering the modest quality of the writing, and above all, not allowing personal animosities to intrude on my thoughts. (I did not mention in the review, for instance, that I have clear evidence that he is perfectly prepared to tell very public lies in order to incriminate someone he has long harboured suspicions towards, nor did I mention that he has a history of rude, bullying and high-handed behaviour towards people he disagrees with.)

Conversely, it is quite blatant from his own paranoid, boastful and fallacious responses that he has made no such effort when considering my feedback; he even uses those same personal animosities as an excuse to dismiss and misrepresent what is in my review. He does not even make the small effort required to treat his own customer with due courtesy or respect.

It seems Whittle’s view of the author/reader relationship is quite different from mine. He feels that when I bought my copy of his book, I was unknowingly paying for the privilege of being compelled to agree with him, and to tell him what a fantastic writer he is. He apparently feels I violated the terms of the deal by telling him what I actually think.

I am reminded of the command issued by Franz Liebkind in The Producers; “Shut up! You are the audience! I am the writer! I outrank you!”

Not that I was exactly scathing about With Hope In Your Heart anyway, I simply pointed out that it has failings, especially some inexcusably bad spelling and punctuation* , which is very distracting, and that most of the assertions made, whether they are contentious or not, are not cited. When any writer makes an incriminating assertion about a fellow human being, surely the very minimum standards of decency would demand that the assertion be backed up with evidence? This never really happens in With Hope In Your Heart, and that is just one of the reasons that it is a mediocre book, to which I gave a mediocre rating. If I were truly trying to pan Whittle, as he is trying to make out, I would have rated the book far lower, mentioned none of its redeeming qualities at all, and made no attempt to mitigate his amateurishness as an author. (For that matter, if I was really as hung up on ‘vengeance’ as Whittle asserts, I would hardly have waited three months to give his book a public trashing. And for that matter, if I had underhand reasons for writing the review, I probably wouldn’t even have written it in my real name, because it gives him a pretext to respond in precisely this petulant way.) 

If Whittle cannot deal with criticism as mild as this, he really should get out of the authoring business in a big hurry. Otherwise, given the unrestrained harshness of real professional critics, he could be in for a horrible shock when he reads reviews of the future titles he is promising.

In conclusion, given his attitude towards his readership, I would discourage anyone from purchasing any titles written in the names of Christopher Whittle or Christopher Corcoran.

* As an example, the word “it’s” is a contraction of “it is”. But Whittle keeps using “it’s” throughout the book as a possessive pronoun, which means the apostrophe should be dropped – “its”. (This is the impersonal equivalent of “my”, “your”, “his”, “her”, “our” and “their”, none of which uses an apostrophe.) Whittle is also frequently guilty of apostrophising plurals, which would be a grotesque error even by High School standards. 

These apostrophe errors are endemic in With Hope In Your Heart. They happen over and over again, page after page, which is the main reason why I doubt that the book was ever subjected to a proper external editing process before publication. And if it was, shame on the publishers for being so casual.

Whittle also does not appear to know the correct spelling of “analogy”, which he seems almost to confuse with a negative reaction of the immune system; “anallergy”. He further talks about the Liverpool team doing well under Bob Paisley’s “managership”. Not technically wrong – and it is at least correctly-spelt – but it is a questionable choice of words, as “managership” means merely the position of a manager, not so much the application of the role, or their tour-of-duty. “Management” or “stewardship” would both have been more suitable.

On page 55, he says that the Home Secretary of the time, Douglas Hurd, was “compelled to tow the party line”. But the correct term is “toe the party line” i.e. the expression has nothing to do with tugging on ropes. Instead, it is an athletics allusion to runners, prior to the start of a footrace, not letting any part of their body bar their toes be poised on or beyond their marks. If any part of the foot is positioned beyond the line, they are considered to have ventured outside the rules. Thus, ‘to toe the line’ simply means not stepping outside the exact wording of a rule. Whereas ‘to tow the line’ means… well, probably nothing at all.

Sentence structure is often clumsy as well, to the point that some passages are quite difficult to follow. One sentence on page 53 reads, “As regards Hillsborough, those responsible were never convicted in a court of law for something which many held them accountable, and the fact that there is hard evidence to convict them.” The final sub-clause of the sentence appears to be incomplete, the word ‘accountable’ should be replaced with ‘responsible’ (seeing the whole issue around the Hillsborough cover-up is that no one ever did hold the South Yorkshire Police to account), and the word ‘for’ should probably be added in immediately after ‘responsible’.

Page 63, Whittle dramatically announces, “The inquest into the biggest sporting disaster in British history were about to take place.” Surely, when talking in the third person, the word ‘were’ should only be used if the subject noun is plural? Now that is a schoolchild error.

On page 66, Whittle writes, “The way the inquests were run was another indisputable fact that they were not wholly impartial, or without bias and prejudice.” I agree with what he is trying to say, but this is scarcely a sentence at all. Surely he needs to replace his favourite pet-word ‘fact’ with ‘indicator’?

On page 72, Whittle states, “two video tapes, which filmed the horrific events unfold, went missing from the police control room at Hillsborough during a ‘break in’.” The word ‘unfold’ destroys the grammar of the sub-clause – Whittle probably means “which filmed the horrific events as they unfolded” – but the assertion is also very misleading. By putting the words ‘break in’ (which should be hyphenated, by the way) in speech marks, he is implying that this is a quote of an official explanation. But no one, be they at the football club or in the police, has ever officially declared that the disappearance of the two CCTV tapes was the result of a break-in. They have simply been declared ‘missing without explanation’. (It is scandalous that no one among the authorities has ever bothered to find an explanation of course, but let’s get the facts right.) Furthermore, to the best knowledge of Roger Houldsworth, the CCTV technician at the club, the tapes did not contain footage of the Disaster unfolding, as he understood that the camera feeding them was from the Kop End of the ground. Oh and, even if it had been true, it’s also silly wording on Whittle’s part to suggest that the tapes, not the CCTV cameras, were what filmed the Disaster.

On page 119, Whittle defiantly announces that, “my love for Liverpool never died, nor never waned.” A double-negative means a positive, so “nor never waned” means Whittle’s love for Liverpool did wane, which is clearly the polar opposite of what he intended to say.

Page 129, when recalling the experience of revisiting the Medico-Legal Centre in Sheffield in June 2011, Whittle describes “a red-bricked building” that “looked cold, grey, inhospitable, callous…” A red building looks grey? I imagine he means ‘grey’ in an emotional sense i.e. a feel to the place or an atmosphere, but his use of the word ‘looked’ means it comes across as just another physical description, contradicting the previous one.

On the same page, he says that this visit to Hillsborough was 23 years since he had last been there. But his last visit had been about seven months after the Disaster, for a league match between Sheffield Wednesday and Liverpool in November 1989 i.e. 21-and-a-half years or thereabouts. He then goes and contradicts himself on the very next page by saying the gap between visits was 22 years. Then on page 132, he says it was 23 years again.

Again on page 130, Whittle states that Gate C is still in the Leppings Lane concourse. It isn’t. There is a turnstile bank close to the spot where Gate C stood, and rather insensitively it is in fact called Turnstile C, but the nearest exit gate to that notorious position is called Exit Door 5. These changes to the lay-out were made back in the mid-1990’s.

And finally (for now) Whittle writes on page 149, as he comes to the end of his book, “This has been very much a personal account, and something which has been very difficult to write. Some might call it a remarkable achievement, but I will let you, the readers, be the judge of that.” No grammatical or spelling mistakes in there. It’s just, as we see from the argument above, it is simply untrue. Whittle does not allow readers to be the judge of whether the book is a good job or not. He will only allow them to applaud it.

You might argue that I am largely quibbling, when comparing punctuation errors, spelling mistakes, scrappy grammar, half-remembered names, and dodgy definitions with the enormity of the tragedy that the book discusses. But as we have seen above, Whittle does repeatedly ask me to justify my assertion that his writing is schoolchild-like. It is not quite what I said anyway, but one way or the other, I would argue that these are just a few very pertinent examples. And there are plenty more where they came from.

—–

More Whittle shenanigans here.

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2 Responses to “Hillsborough: A Brief Review Of ‘With Hope In Your Heart’ by Christopher Whittle”


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