Open Links, by stand-up comedian and writer Dominic Holland, is the first ever e-novel to be published by a charity.
One hundred per cent of the proceeds from this innovative celebrity and charity collaboration will go to Anthony Nolan, the UK’s blood cancer charity and bone marrow register.
Set on the final day of the British Open, Open Linksis a life-affirming story of hope, family and endeavour; a fairy-tale that will resonate with everyone, but particularly those of us who still dare to dream.
It took author Dominic Holland more than a year to write – but he is kindly giving 100% of all proceeds to Anthony Nolan, a charity which has been curing people of leukaemia, lymphoma and other blood cancers for four decades.
“I conceived the story and started the manuscript always with a charitable angle in mind,” explained Dominic. “Open Links and Anthony Nolan are a perfect fit for this innovative publishing enterprise, and I hope the novel will strike a chord with anyone who believes in the kindness of strangers and the potential every single one of us has to wake up one morning and do something extraordinary.”
The story features cameos from Ryder Cup star Justin Rose and broadcasting legend Peter Alliss, but the hero of the book is fictional golfer Ricky Randal, who has an accident with a pair of trousers ahead of a dramatic final round, a situation that European Tour star Chris Wood understands well.
The 26-year-old has not only twice finished in the top five at the British Open (once as an amateur), but also, at this year's US PGA Championship, he split his trousers and had to change them on the course.
“It's the most embarrassed I've ever been on a golf course,” the Bristol golfer said with a laugh. “They tore right where you don't want them too so I certainly appreciate Ricky's dilemma! I also know all about the drama and inspirational nature of the last day of the Open. It's a brilliant stage for a story like this and a great cause too!”
Dominic added: “Anthony Nolan is a remarkable organisation. Blood cancer is indiscriminate and today it could affect me or any member of my family - leaving us to hope and pray that there is a match out there and that Anthony Nolan is able to find them on the register."
"Open Links is available for just £3.99 on Kindle, with Anthony Nolan receiving all of the profits. The charity must raise £100 for every person it adds to its bone marrow register, so every book counts," explains Henny Braund, Chief Executive of Anthony Nolan.
“It is a simple equation; the more people who read Open Links, the more lives we can save,” said Henny. “Every 25 e-books sold will enable us to pay for a further person to join the Anthony Nolan register. A person who could be the lifesaving match that one family are desperately waiting for. It’s that straightforward - read a book, help save a life.”
Dominic hosted the Anthony Nolan Supporter Awards earlier this year and was deeply moved by some of the people he spoke to on the evening. “Meeting families who are coping with such difficult circumstances was a humbling experience and has reaffirmed to me exactly why donating the proceeds of Open Links to Anthony Nolan is the right thing to do,” he said, visibly affected by the stories he heard on the evening.
The novel is short and takes only 4 to 5 hours to read – incidentally, the same amount of time it usually takes to donate your stem cells or to play a round of golf. “It’s quite amazing to think that, in the time it takes to read Open Links, you could donate lifesaving stem cells and cure someone of blood cancer. Being able to save someone's life is remarkable and a privilege and that’s why Anthony Nolan deserves our support and our thanks," Dominic commented.
DOMINIC HOLLAND: Q & A
Q - Your love and knowledge of golf shines through the novel so the first question has to be - what’s your background in the game?
Holland - I’m a keen sports fan, but golf is the only game I still play – badly I am troubled to admit. Golf is surely the hardest game of all. Like tennis it requires brute force and deft touches and an array of shots in-between, not to mention how exacting it is mentally. Stationary ball, time to fret and margin measured in millimetres. Not a sport for the faint of heart.
Q - And where did the inspiration for a story about a journeyman come from? You display real empathy for his situation - for the fact that he has the skills to play a great round, but the pressure can be overwhelming.
Holland - All tour players can do extraordinary things on the range - shape balls either way or drill it a mile. Such players can birdie any hole they face, only they can’t do it when it really counts. Or they can’t do it over four rounds and I have always been excited at the prospect of a journeyman getting his great shots all lined up and at the right time. But to avoid the book being one-note and predictable, I decided to enlist some external help as well because I’m a sucker for a fairytale.
Q - You’ve also recreated the atmosphere of the 2013 Open at Muirfield. Were you actually there - or just glued to the TV?
Holland - No, I’ve never been to an Open so it is all conjecture and imagination on my part – and it’s a relief that it rings true because I didn’t have the book read by anyone in the golf world before I published it. This was one of my concerns because I am hopeful that golf aficionados might discover Open Links and even the luminaries named in the book – as a way to help it along and contribute to such a worthy cause.
Q – You capture the familiar voices of Peter Alliss, Ken Brown, John Inverdale and others. Does that come from years of watching and listening?
Holland - Kind of you, thank you. I think making my living for 25 years as an observational comic, I have developed an ear for things. I have met Peter Allis on numerous occasions and admire him and like his work – and similarly John Inverdale is a mate of mine who I beat regularly in golf, so he’s a guy I am fond of also.
Q - One of the characters in the book is called Singleton. Is that a nod to the everyman hero of the 2014 Open, John Singleton, whose journey vaguely resembles Ricky Randal’s?
Holland - Good spot. It is indeed a link. When writing a book, I am constantly chopping and changing characters names and, given what John managed at Hoylake, I thought that he was a worthy addition to the story. I was mid-writing Open Links during the Open and so clearly his name was in my head and I particularly enjoyed his story.
Q - Justin Rose plays a role in the book - any reason you selected him other than the fact he’s widely viewed as one of the good guys in golf?
Holland - Ever since his heroics as an amateur at the Birkdale Open, he’s been a hero of mine – and his putt on 17 against Phil Mickelson in the Ryder Cup is an abiding memory. You're also correct about his being a nice guy and this was a factor. A good mate of mine played in a pro-am with Justin many years ago and he still goes on about it and how that they kept in touch for a year or so afterwards.
Q - What about your own game? Single-figure handicapper or hacker? Have you ever taken on an Open rota course yourself?
Holland - Lowest I got to was 16. Back to 18 now and like all high players, I get wry looks when I put a little run together – I went birdie birdie once at The Grove, but when I sign the card, there are always too many 7s I’m afraid. I don’t think I've ever had a blob free Stableford round which is pathetic really but I love the game and I will keep trying.
Q - And finally what is it that drew you to Anthony Nolan?
Holland - I do lots of dinners and awards ceremonies and Anthony Nolan were the benefactors at one event. Simon Dyson, the Chairman, spoke and said something that resonated with me – “…frankly what we do means that people every year are alive who wouldn’t be without us,” and because leukaemia is completely indiscriminate, it could be my wife or my son tomorrow and I would want them to have a match – and I’ve supported Anthony Nolan ever since.