Our favourite wordsmith, Paul "I don't hate Ray Keene" McKeown, responded in ineluctably (sic) outraged fashion to my last blog post about him. He denied hating Keene, or having written anything hostile to him, yet just three lines later, he refers to him as "Fat Boy Unslim"! He also claims to be "intrigued" about what story I might have, explaining his hostility to Keene. In reality, he is not intrigued at all, because in the very next sentence, he presents his own highly coloured version of the events concerned.
According to McKeown, he was
invited to write a book about Bob Wade by Fat Boy Unslim, which in the end he had hopelessly hacked up by someone else. Our points of view diverged on the question of quality. I have written a considerable part of my own book on Wade (as many have seen), the rest is on hold until I spend three months in the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in 's Gravenhage to complete my research. When I shall have the opportunity to continue, I don't yet know. Bob was a highly respected figure who achieved a great deal, much forgotten, in the English chess world, and he deserves a decent biography, not pulp.
Naturally, the truth is rather different. In 2005, Ray Keene decided that a tribute book to Wade was overdue, and, with Wade's enthusiastic agreement, he decided to publish one. He advertised for someone to write it. McKeown responded to the advert and met with Ray (in the presence of witnesses). It was explained to our wordsmith friend that Bob did not appear to be in great health, and might not have too many years left in him (in fact, he died in November 2008), and so the intention was to get a book out fairly quickly, so that Bob could see it. McKeown agreed.
He then disappeared for 12 months, without a word, before finally popping up again, brandishing what he had done so far. On closer inspection, it transpired that his year's labours had not yet even taken him beyond the point where Bob left New Zealand in the late 1940s, let alone covering his subsequent 60-year international career! At the rate McKeown was working, Wade would have needed to rival Methuselah for longevity, if he were ever to see the book in print.
At this point, Ray decided that, despite McKeown's prodigiously extensive command of English vocabulary, he had not actually succeeded in understanding the point of the project, and so Ray sacked him and engaged Ray Cannon instead. The latter, aided by Julian Simpole and Ray himself, managed within a few months to produce a fine, 350-page book on Wade, containing 240 games, almost 30 with notes by Wade himself. McKeown may regard the book as "pulp", and as having been "hopelessly hacked up", but Bob Wade himself was delighted with it, ordering numerous additional copies (none of which Ray ever charged him for, incidentally), to present to friends and acquaintances. I have one myself.
Bob Wade, as we know, passed away in November 2008. Well over three years later, and almost seven years after he first offered to write the book for Ray Keene, McKeown's book remains unfinished and unpublished, and by his own admission, he does not yet know when he will have the time to continue work on it.