Five books that are must-reads for anyone from Leeds

Don Revie, central figure in The Unforgiven.
Don Revie, central figure in The Unforgiven.
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The long and proud literary history of Leeds means picking just five books about the city that are worth investigating is no easy task.

Fiction or non-fiction? Crime, entertainment or sport? Recently released or a title that’s been on the nation’s library shelves for many a year?

Kester Aspden at David Oluwale's grave in Killingbeck Cemetery.

Kester Aspden at David Oluwale's grave in Killingbeck Cemetery.

With all that in mind, we’ve come up with a list that’s intended to cover as many bases as possible but is in no way designed to be definitive.

Let the inevitable arguments begin about those which have missed the cut...

Hunslet-born Keith Waterhouse’s 1994 memoir, City Lights, recounts his childhood in a grimy, industrial Leeds almost unrecognisable from the shiny metropolis of the 21st century.

It was described by another son of Leeds, politician Gerald Kaufman, as depicting “the Leeds that I loved, the Leeds that time and change had taken away”.

David Peace in Leeds's City Square.

David Peace in Leeds's City Square.

The former Yorkshire Evening Post journalist’s other work includes Billy Liar and the play Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell, written alongside Willis Hall and starring Peter O’Toole, both also Leeds lads.

Rob Bagchi and Paul Rogerson tell the story of Don Revie’s all-conquering reign as Leeds United manager in their book The Unforgiven.

It describes in fascinating detail how Revie transformed a struggling Second Division club into a famously-combative European footballing superpower without ever getting the credit his remarkable achievement deserved.

Bagchi and Rogerson strive to put the record straight and rile against the way Leeds have been poured down a memory hole while the great Manchester United, Nottingham Forest and Liverpool teams of the 60s and 70s are still held up for veneration.

Ossett-born David Peace’s first four books – and yes, we’re counting them as a single entry for the purposes of this list – go under the collective title of the Red Riding Quartet.

Named individually as 1974, 1977, 1980 and 1983, they set an epic narrative of police and council corruption against the backdrop of the Yorkshire Ripper murders.

The books and their subsequent TV adaptations won widespread acclaim – but were not without their critics.

John Stalker, former deputy chief constable of Greater Manchester, described the portrayal of West Yorkshire Police in the programmes as “offensive”.

The best books do not always make easy reading and that much is certainly true of Kester Aspden’s retelling of the tragic tale of David Oluwale.

Nationality W*g: The Hounding of David Oluwale highlights how the homeless Nigerian was found dead in the River Aire in 1969 after suffering brutal treatment at the hands of some Leeds police officers.

Two officers were charged with manslaughter, perjury and grievous bodily harm.

Insp Geoffrey Ellerker and Sgt Kenneth Kitching were cleared of those charges but convicted of assaulting Mr Oluwale.

Speaking about his book in 2007, Aspden said: “I want to do what we did not do in 1971 which is to examine the case again to see what it says about law, homelessness, racism; about how we treat the marginal people.”

Mick McCann pays entertaining homage to his home city with an A to Z entitled How Leeds Changed The World.

The encyclopedia aims to list all the breakthroughs and discoveries that have been made in Yorkshire’s unofficial capital over the years.

It covers everything from the exploits of aviation pioneer Robert Blackburn to the 18th century philosopher David Hartley and his contributions to thinking on the theory of evolution.

The book was picked as a gift for VIPs attending the Tour de France Grand Départ in Leeds last year.

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