I was born in Northampton in 1951 and learned to read by studying the sports page of the Daily Express, before being more or less educated at Mrs Cherry’s nursery (long defunct, mercifully), Great Houghton Prep School (closed 2014), Carmel College (closed 1997) and Manchester University (still going, last I heard).
There being no pro pinball circuit on which to seek my fortune, and quiz machines yet to be invented, I was obliged to seek a job in newspapers. I worked on the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph, the Northampton Chronicle and Echo (both now weekly not daily, with a fraction of their old staffing), Reuters, The Guardian (for nearly 25 years) and the Financial Times (for 12).
I have been variously described as “writer of the best one-liners in the business” (a friend); “gifted but difficult (a former editor)”; and “a self-determinist – no use to me” (former sports editor). I am still managing to write occasionally, in a semi-retired kind of way, for both the papers that employed me between 1979 and 2016.
In addition to my journalism I have written various other books including Tickle the Public, a much-praised though little-bought history of the popular press, Extracts from the Red Notebooks, Eleven Minutes Late, Engel’s England, and now That’s the Way It Crumbles. In 2014 I also edited The Highlights, an anthology of the work of my late, great colleague Frank Keating.
I live in Herefordshire with my wife Hilary, daughter Vika and a lot of animals. My son Laurie died of cancer in 2005, aged 13. Since then the Laurie Engel Fund has raised almost £1.25m in his memory, first to build a new Teenage Cancer Trust unit, which opened to acclaim in 2010, and now to create a new ward that will enable the pre-teens to enjoy similar facilities. Of the thousands of articles I have written, the best-remembered by far is the story of Laurie’s illness.
I also edited 12 of the 151 (and counting) editions of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, the so-called (though never by me) Bible of cricket.