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James Riordan, English novelist and academic died he was 75.

James Riordan  was an English novelist, broadcaster, sports historian, association football player and Russian scholar died he was 75..[3]

Well known for his work Sport in Soviet Society, the first academic look at sport in the Soviet Union, and for his children’s novels.

He claims to have been the first Briton to play football in the USSR, playing for FC Spartak Moscow in 1963.[4]

(10 October 1936 – 10 February 2012)

Life and career

Born in Portsmouth in 1936,[5] James Riordan learned to speak Russian during National Service training in the Royal Air Force from 1955 to 1957. In 1960, he graduated in Russian Studies at the University of Birmingham, before qualifying as a teacher at the London Institute of Education.

In 1963, Riordan studied at the Communist higher party school in
Moscow; he was an avowed Communist, and was one of the few English
students at the school.

His autobiography Comrade Jim: The Spy Who Played for Spartak includes an account of his games for Spartak Moscow; some Russian commentators have questioned these claims.[6]

When he returned to England he became lecturer at Bradford University before moving on to the University of Surrey at Guildford
where became head of the Russian Department and was awarded a personal
professorship. In 1980 he was the Olympic attache for the British Olympic Association of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. He held an honorary doctorate of Grenoble University and was President (2003-5) and later Fellow of the European Committee for Sports History.

Select bibliography


  • Comrade Jim: The Spy Who Played for Spartak, Harper Perennial, 2009. ISBN 0007251157


  • Sport in soviet society: development of sport and physical education in Russia and the USSR / James Riordan. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1977. (partially Birmingham, Univ., Diss.). ISBN 0-521-21284-7.
  • Sport in European Cultures (2002)

Children’s novels

  • Sweet Clarinet
  • The Prisoner
  • When the Guns Fell Silent
  • Mistress of the Copper Mountain
  • War Song
  • The Match of Death
  • The Gift
  • The Sniper
  • An Illustrated Treasury of Fairy and Folk Tales
  • Rebel Cargo
  • The Woman in the Moon and Other Tales of Forgotten Heroines (1985) Dial ISBN 0-8037-0194-2
  • The Twelve Labours Of Hercules

As editor

  • James Riordan (ed.). Sport under Communism. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1978. ISBN 0-7735-0505-9.
  • Riordan, James & Arnd Krüger (eds.). The international politics of sport in the twentieth century. London: Routledge, 1999. ISBN 0-419-21160-8
  • James Riordan & Arnd Krüger (eds.). European cultures of sport: examining the nations and regions. Bristol: Intellect, 2003. ISBN 1-8415-0014-3
  • Football Stories (2004)
  • Arnd Krüger & James Riordan (eds). The story of worker sport. Champaign, Ill.: Human Kinetics (1996). ISBN 0-87322-874-X

As translator

Chingiz Aitmatov, Jamilia, Telgram Books: London, 2012

Literary awards

Riordan’s first novel Sweet Clarinet won the NASEN Award, and was shortlisted for the Whitbread Children’s Book Award. The Match of Death won the South Lanarkshire Book Award. The Gift was also shorted for the NASEN Award.[5]
To see more of who died in 2012 click here


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