Five times world snooker champion Ronnie O’Sullivan has revisited his misspent youth for his debut novel, Framed. He spoke to Hannah Stephenson.
He’s had his share of torment, battled with alcohol, drugs and depression, yet there’s something gentle and disarmingly honest about snooker ace Ronnie O’Sullivan.
After writing about his turbulent times in his previous two autobiographies, the man who won five world snooker championship titles at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre is now revealing more of his own life, this time through his first novel, Framed.
It’s a gritty thriller set in 1990s gangland London, in which the hero, young snooker club owner Frankie James, enters a sordid world of ruthless mobsters and twisted killers, to find out who has framed his brother for murder. “Frankie is basically me, having to do things out of loyalty for his father and brother. He doesn’t want to be in that world, but he hasn’t really got a choice.
“I spent a lot of time going back to haunts in Soho where I grew up, and picked through my autobiographies. I wanted Frankie to come across stuff in the novel that I couldn’t put in the autobiographies. It was a chance to show the other side of what was going on in my life at the time.”
In the book, Frankie has a father in prison, something which O’Sullivan was able to draw on from his own experiences. When he was 16, his father Ronnie Snr was jailed for life for the murder of Bruce Bryan, a driver to the gangster Charlie Kray, in a nightclub in Chelsea. He served 18 years of his sentence before being released in 2010.
O’Sullivan’s Sicilian mother Maria also spent time in jail for tax evasion, leaving him to look after his little sister Danielle. He says his father’s imprisonment had a ‘massive’ effect on his life.
“When he went away, I lost my way a bit, got involved with the wrong crowd and the wrong people and was quite easily led. I didn’t know what to do apart from block my mind from it through drinking, which is what Frankie has done in the book.”
After years of depression and spells in addiction clinics, O’Sullivan tries to follow more positive pursuits. These days he says he has an occasional drink and he runs, currently covering around 25 miles a week.
“A lot of the things I do are solitary,” he says. “Like snooker and running and now writing. It suits my personality.”
He lives quietly with his fiancee, actress Laila Rouass in Chigwell, Essex, with her nine-year-old daughter Inez. He also sees his two children Ronnie Jr and Lily, from a previous relationship with his ex, Jo Langley, and has hopes of a closer relationship with his eldest daughter, Taylor-Ann, from a previous relationship, now 20. Family loyalty has been a major force in his entire life, he agrees, and while his novel is set in a violent criminal underworld, it also emphasises the loyalty involved within close-knit families, no matter what. He’s hoping his debut novel will lead to further books and possibly even a TV adaptation. And could he be snooker world champion again? “The honest answer is probably no, but I wouldn’t count it out,” he says.
Framed by Ronnie O’Sullivan is published in hardback by Orion, priced £16.99.