Win a copy of Absolutely Huge – a satire about a fictional Welsh rugby legend

A Welsh Grand Slam and heated debate about a North Wales franchise? How prescient of author Luke Upton, as both subjects crop up in his ingenious satire Absolutely Huge, published by Y Lolfa earlier this season.

The book tells the fictional story of Gethin Hughes, opening with a 2010 wonder try by the player against New Zealand and then fast-forwarding to the present day as he returns to play for his junior club, Maes-y-Tawe of WRU Division Five South Central (C).

“How the hell did this happen?” writes Upton and what follows is the answer as the reader is treated to the glory-speckled yet mishap-filled biography of one of rugby’s greatest players.

Upton, who grew up watching Swansea RFC, co-runs the humorous Twitter account @NotGavHenson and you don’t need to be Einstein to spot the seeds of some of his ideas.

Flashy boots and a fake tan, a pop-star girlfriend and an eye-catching confidence – “The lads have started calling me NASA as I’m so good at putting men in space” tweets Hughes – are some of the characteristics associated with the hero of the story, although there is an unmistakable vulnerability there as well.

This reviewer is loath to give too much away because the enjoyment stems from seeing how Hughes lurches from one PR disaster to another. Whether it’s endorsing a dodgy energy drink, spouting political messages in a foreign language or breaking with team protocol in order to see the Loch Ness Monster, Hughes inadvertently finds ways to undermine a career that should have delivered so much more.

Fact and fiction actually merged in Upton’s telling of a Lions tour because he initially included an incident with a lion, only to scrap that after Scott Baldwin’s real-life accident on tour with the Ospreys in South Africa in 2017.

“I didn’t want readers to think I had copied a real incident, so out it went,” Upton said in a recent interview. “But don’t worry, there was still a major incident with another animal, whilst visiting Robben Island. You’ll have to read the book to find out what that’s about. But it hasn’t been copied in real life. Yet.”

Scott Baldwin shows the scar from the lion bite

Life imitates art: Scott Baldwin shows the hand scar that resulted from a lion bite (Huw Evans Agency)

A personal favourite anecdote relates how Hughes is confronted on his doorstep one morning by a sick child and his family, a film crew and several tabloid journalists. The child wants to give Hughes a sack containing £15,000 – money raised for a life-saving operation in America – to make him stay at the Swansea-based Sailors franchise.

“I was a bit freaked out by it all,” Hughes explains. “Those journalists were there filming me. I wouldn’t take the cash so one told me it was the boy’s ‘dying wish’ and that I should.

“I thought it was pretty off. I gave him a match shirt and closed the door. What else was I supposed to do? I spoke to Gary [his agent] afterwards and he was pretty cross – he said I should have taken his money as he had a great buy-to-let in Splott that I could have got involved with.”

The tabloid’s headline the next day was ‘Doorn’t bother me! Rugby superstar leaves dying child out in the cold’. You can almost see this happening!

Absolutely Huge, by Luke Upton, is published by Y Lolfa, RRP £9.99 or £6.99 for the E-book. You can buy it here.

 

The publishers have kindly provided us with six copies to give away in a competition. For a chance to win one, look at the photo below and answer the question beneath it, filling in your details. The competition closes on Wednesday 24 April.

Wales score a try in Italy, 2019

Five-pointer: a try for Wales in the Six Nations – but who is this scorer in Rome? (Huw Evans Agency)

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Terms and conditions

The competition closes at 23.59pm on Wednesday 24 April 2019.

Six winners will be selected at random, each winning a copy of the paperback Absolutely Huge by Luke Upton.

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