Graeme Dott’s new autobiography “Frame of Mind” is rare for a snooker book in that it presents its subject as he actually is, not as he would like to be perceived.
The book is unmistakably Dott: forthright, to the point and devoid of self promoting embellishment.
It details his rise from a boyhood spent on the notorious Easterhouse estate in Glasgow to world champion and then the depression that came in the wake of the death of his long time manager, Alex Lambie.
Make no mistake, Dott came from humble beginnings. When he and his mother would leave their house she would turn and wave back towards it, even if it was empty, to deter the break-ins that were common in this socially deprived environment.
His family were a model of working class pride: they didn’t have much money but they worked hard, did the best for their kids and looked out for each other.
What they clearly instilled in Dott was that to get anywhere in life you had to work for it, and he threw himself into snooker, battling against various odds, including pneumonia, depression, a broken wrist and, of course, the other players.
Defying the odds seems to be the theme of his life and perhaps this explains why Dott has such a vast a range of things that annoy him, which veer from the understandable to the comical.
His contempt for the WPBSA board who tried to discipline him for having an opinion was well placed but quite why he is angered by TV commentators saying players have a cup of tea at the interval – which he claims never happens – I have no idea.
But in some ways it doesn’t matter because Dott has always had a me-against-the-world attitude and it has served him well. He seems fuelled by a desire to prove everyone wrong, and he did do when he became world champion.
His account of his depression and how he came out of it is moving and inspiring.
Comic relief is provided by vignettes such as his son’s pet guinea pig sitting on Dotty’s shoulder and urinating on him, or the time he proposed to his wife, Elaine, by ‘cooking’ her a microwaved meal.
Dott has a nice, self-deprecating style but he doesn’t hold back in his criticisms.
And on one group of people Dott could not be more trenchant: the press. He dislikes them and spends a whole chapter detailing the numerous ways they have done him down.
Writing as a journalist who has covered snooker through most of Dott’s professional career I would say some of this is true but much of it is imagined.
Like many players, Dott will have found himself misrepresented on the odd occasion, although in my experience this is usually done through incompetence or misunderstanding rather than as part of some grand conspiracy to bring a player down.
Dott comments that most journalists have “never held a snooker cue.” This may be true. There was one snooker correspondent of a national newspaper who didn’t know how much the yellow was worth.
But, just as journalists have never been players, Dott has never been a journalist and has no idea how the media works.
He certainly has no idea how hard it is to get snooker stories into a largely apathetic press, or how hard the committed band of journalists who cover the circuit work.
He criticises those who criticised the manner of his world final triumph over Peter Ebdon in 2006. “Much of what was written was vile,” he says. However, just a few pages later he himself describes the match as “dreadful” and “horrible.”
I would agree with him that he deserved more credit for becoming world champion. This achievement was not isolated to one match against Ebdon but the result of a lifetime of hard work, commitment and dedication.
I would argue with anyone who describes Graeme as an unworthy winner of the World Championship. The fact that he has appeared in two other Crucible finals is further testament to his talent and application.
At the end of the book, Dott says that he feels anyone who knows him will like him.
I would agree with that because I always have. He is an honest, decent player and person with integrity and the guts to speak his mind rather than hide behind platitudes.
It is entirely right that he has his say and his story is proof that sport offers a way out of unpromising beginnings.
In the book, Dott muses on Easterhouse today, with its crime and social problems. He must wonder what would have become of him had he not had snooker.
But he did and through his own endeavours he climbed to the top of the world.