DOPED won the William Hill sports book of the year 2013, ahead perhaps surprisingly of the tenacious investigations of Lance Armstrong by Sunday Times reporter David Walsh and the egotistical biography I am Zlatan Ibrahimovic (which one reviewer likened to Portnoy’s Complaint).
Set in ’50s and ’60s seamy, post war London we have not just the minutae of each race and the betting but the addresses of the protagonists. “Bill bought her a smart new RCA Victor Record Player”… “her favourite record was Acker Bilk’s Stranger on the Shore”.
This is not just about the scam and the doping but the rise of betting as an industry and ironically (given the prize sponsor) details who the real William Hill was, and Victor Chandler and a cast of other rogues and stable lads and general underworld villains from the Kray brothers down to the policemen on their trails, or not as it turned out in the case of “portly” Bob Hill.
At the centre is Bill Roper, mastermind, gambler who discovers that doping favourites in horse races could be quite lucrative from a bookmakers point of view…especially when you are seeking to set your young Swiss mistress Micheline Lugeon up in her cosmetics business. She inadvertently becomes the frisson that brings him down.