Steven Bell was already an established author in the United Kingdom, his biographies on wrestler Douglas Clark and the Chapecoense football club having been well received. So when his publisher asked, “What’s next?” there was only one answer – The British Bulldogs.
“I wanted it to come particularly from the UK point of view and address some aspects of the story that nobody – I don’t think – has ever told in any documentary or been told [or] produced from U.S. or Canadian point of view,” said Bell, whose third book Dynamite & Davey: The Explosive Lives of the British Bulldogs will publish in April.
The book centers around 15 to 20 “key moments” ranging from notable matches and where they were living to information about their personal lives.
While the “controversial and negative stuff” – excessive drinking and drug use – is included, Bell said he wanted his book to come from a positive viewpoint “with all the context.”
Nobody from Gilborne, their hometown in the United Kingdom, traveled abroad and holiday vacations were taken locally, according to Bell.
“When Tom and Davey, both about three years apart, got invited to Canada…. What a culture shock that must have been,” Bell said. “I don’t think that’s ever been discussed before.”
Bell said his own father was born a few months separate from Billington and was brought up on similar stories of poverty.
“[You] basically had to be miners and work down in the pits,” Bell said. “There was nothing out there for them, no opportunities.”
Weaved throughout the pages are interviews with members of the Hart, Smith and Billington families.
Ross Hart in particular became “passionate” about the project, according to Bell, and served as almost a “family representative.”
The most challenging part of writing the book, according to Bell, was making sure he treaded “the fine line with all the controversial and negative stuff.”
“It’s impossible to put yourself in the mind of other people and what their stance on that is, what they want to be written about, what they want to be brought back up,” Bell said. “And the fine line between being dignified and respectful about all that sort of stuff and also telling the full story and giving the reader the full facts.”
In looking at Bilington’s life, Bell said he spoke to Michelle, Billington’s ex-wife, and daughter, Bronwynne.
“They’re very open and honest about Tom’s negative side and controversies around his life,” Bell said. “The take the viewpoint of he was doing what he had to do to provide for family… [and] trying to carve out this extraordinary career.”
He “wasn’t a bad man,” but “sort of fell into these traps and pitfalls,” Bell said. “They were very open and honest about talking about that.”
Smith’s side was “a little more guarded,” according to Bell.
“That’s why I use Ross as the main sounding board… Ross is so balanced and so honest and so for a lot of the Davey side of stuff, particularly in Canada and stuff related to that family, I mainly used Ross.”
Dynamite & Davey will be available April 4 in Europe, but anyone who pre-orders through Bell’s website will receive it at the same time as the European date.