Arsenal Book Reviews: James Durose-Rayner’s “Queen of Cups”

English footballer for Chelsea and England Alan Hudson, 31st January 1969. (Photo by McCarthy/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
English footballer for Chelsea and England Alan Hudson, 31st January 1969. (Photo by McCarthy/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images) /

Arsenal book reviews continues with James Durose-Rayner’s Gunner-centric series with the massively fulfilling two-part, “Queen of Cups”

In the wake of a deflating transfer deadline day, Arsenal Book Reviews brings you back to some quality entertainment that you won’t want to miss. James Durose-Rayner’s superb Arsenal saga has it’s next installment.

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Following the inaugural novel of the series I Am Sam, followed by ITV-7,  the story takes us to the two part Queen of Cups.

There are a lot of things that the average reader looks for in a story. They look for good characters, a solid plot line, emotional investment, player growth and, given the nature of the audience, a hell of a lot of Arsenal.

It’s remarkable to see where this trilogy has gone since its inception in I Am Sam. From the onset, the protagonist, Lee Janes, a David Beckham lookalike who is batty about Arsenal, is living what he thought was the good life. He was a womanizer, he made a living selling boot-legged DVDs and he had Arsenal there to help him remember that it can always get worse.

But Janes’s character is the spitting image of one of the key aspects of a good story – personal growth. With Queen of Cup, Janes is happily married, making millions doing honest and hard work for ITV 7, working on match day coverage, Arsenal documentaries and owning his own music studio.

While Janes retains the stellar sense of humor that made us fall in love with his flaws, it’s in his successes that we truly connect with him, as we have followed him overcome so much throughout the series.

But naturally, it isn’t just a story about an Arsenal superfan. Just as in previous installments, there are Arsenal history lessons woven seamlessly into the story, primarily covering the 1960s-80s and focusing on such characters as Terry Neill, Alan Ball and Alan Hudson, who becomes a major (and addictive) character in the story for his antics, which stretch from always sneaking away for a pint to helping coach Lee’s son Jaime’s football team.

Alan Hudson, or Huddy, as he is known, pops up everywhere, initially like a vagrant, showing up at six in the morning, popping up on Lee’s family vacation. He’s everywhere, and you’ll be glad of it, as he adds his name to the list of memorable characters to pop out of this story.

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The characters feel lifelike, and that may be because Durose-Rayner borrows the identities of several Gooners across the social media world and inserts them into the story. Though their fictional selves are pretty damn entertaining and there won’t be a single one you don’t find yourself rooting for.

What has always made the series so special is that each aspect of the story could support itself as a standalone. The home life of Lee, along with his wife Emily, their Weetabix-flinging toddler Herbert, and Lee’s two kids from his first marriage, Jaime and Harmony, makes for a fantastic story and you’ll be just as happy to sit at home with them, conversing, as you would be to see them out on the town.

Then there is the professional aspect of the story, where Lee and Emily are taking the world by storm working alongside so many memorable characters at LMJ, ITV-7 and White Lion Studios, from Lee’s tortured best pal Sooty to the Tall Dwarf.

When you factor in the Arsenal history, relayed as a part of the story, you have a three-sided tale that will have you engrossed by the first chapter, just as it was with the previous installments.

This is a novel not just for Arsenal fans, but for anyone who enjoys a compelling story of struggle and success. Although, being a Gooner or Goonerette certainly helps, as you’ll enjoy the well-placed jabs at the likes of Harry Kane (whose damn boring) as well as at supporters of rival clubs, namely Spurs and Manchester United.

You’ll even find a Ray Parlour lookalike dumpster diving around Lee’s house, just like Emmanuel Adebayor’s doppelganger was Lee’s painter earlier in the series.

And if all of that isn’t enough for you, you can find me in the story as well, as the Yank whose opinions are looked down upon. Because I’m a Yank (like I said, very realistic).

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If you enjoy a good read, enjoy football in general, enjoy Arsenal or want an escape from worrying about the current state of the club (pretty sure everyone in the world falls into at least one of those categories), do yourself a favor and pick up this series. If you haven’t started the series (why haven’t you?) you can get started with I Am Sam. All of the books can be found on Durose-Rayner’s website by clicking here.

To snag yourself a copy of Queen of Cups, hop on over to Amazon.