I was sad to discover children’s writer James Riordan has died of a brain tumour. He was 76. Jim was a lovely guy. I met him at an author party at Oxford University Press. I don’t know how we got chatting but I’m so glad we did. Beneath that debonair appearance was a down-to-earth bloke who liked a drink and adored football. We were bound to get along.
OUP Party 2001: Left ot right: Tim Bowler (author) Kate Williams (copy editor) Me, Catherine Stokes (Sales and Marketing) Jim Riordan (author)
Jim was a highly accomplished writer. His books were many and varied. He found recognition with the intense and moving Sweet Clarinet (OUP 1998) and more recently Rebel Cargo (Frances Lincoln) but he was also editor of many anthologies including Russian Folk Tales and the Oxford Book of Football Stories.
Football and Russia pretty much sum up Jim’s lifelong passions. He learned Russian on National Service and went to live and work there in the 1950s. The incredible things that happened to him – including playing for Spartak Moscow – are covered in his biography Comrade Jim.
A staunch Portsmouth supporter with a daughter who follows Leeds, I was delighted when Jim came to my launch of There’s Only One Danny Ogle at the Galpharm (then the McAlpine Staduim) in 2001. He talked to the kids in the audience and was in his element on the tour round the ground. Afterwards he took an interest in my books and helped me no end when I was researching What’s Ukrainian for Football? His YA novel ‘Match of Death’ covers the same events my book covered, only with a different slant and way more knowledge.
The last time I saw Jim was when I was in Portsmouth in 2010. Tom Palmer and I were doing our first Reads United events in front of a huge audience – 200 + – in Fratton Park’s hospitality suite.
David James (ex- Pompey & England keeper on wall at Fratton Park
Jim came along and sat at the back. He was already looking, if not frail exactly, then certainly ‘greyer’ . We had a hug and a chat at the end but he couldn’t stay and we never did have that last drink together we said we’d have. I wish so much we had.
Jim contributed twice to the Goalines (see feeds on right) blog. Once to give a brief history of his support for Pompey and the second time was a copy of the angry letter he sent to The Observer berating the sneering attitude the media had towards Russia being awarded the 2018 World Cup.
Jim’s friends, fellow children’s authors and Portsmouth folk Dennis Hamley and Jan Needle have written thier tributes to Jim here on : Authors Electric Scroll down the February 15th entry.
Na zdorovie, Jim. Rest in Peace