Category Archives: books

Philadelphia Phenoms by Michael Baumann (2014) @SportsPubBooks

philphenoms

Philadelphia Phenoms
by Michael Baumann
Sports Publishing, 2014
256 pages

Every city that fields professional sports teams takes pride in the greatest players on those teams. Some cities, such as Philadelphia, are fortunate enough to have professional teams in multiple sports. Michael Baumann makes it his task to identify the “most amazing athletes to play in the city of Brotherly Love” in Philadelphia Phenoms. Whether wearing the uniform of the Phillies, Eagles, 76ers, or Flyers, there is no shortage of athletic prowess in Philadelphia.

There are some very obvious selections: Mike Schmidt, Julius Erving, Reggie White, and Wilt Chamberlain are all present. Older stars that may be overlooked by younger fans, such as Robin Roberts, Richie Ashburn, and Chuck Bednarik are also discussed. The most interesting chapter, however, focuses on the Phillies’ current second baseman, Chase Utley.

Baumann makes a compelling argument for including Utley rather than his contemporaries Jimmy Rollins or Ryan Howard. According to Baumann, Utley is among the ten best athletes in Philadelphia history, one of the ten best second basemen ever in all of baseball, and the second-best Philadelphia position player behind Schmidt. Part of the author’s argument stems from the fact that Utley does everything well, but does not particularly stand out in any one area. However, from 2005-2009, Utley has the second-best WAR in the National League (five points behind Albert Pujols), and is a full 12.3 points ahead of third-place David Wright. Baumann writes that “œit’s utterly bizarre for a player like Utley, someone who played for good teams in a big media market, got his jersey dirty, played hard, and posted spectacular seasons to be underrated, but here we are.” It will be interesting to see how Hall of Fame voters deal with Chase Utley’s career when it comes time to decide whether he belongs in Cooperstown.

Philadelphia Phenoms is, first and foremost, a book for fans of the teams and players in that city. However, general sports fans will also find some interesting anecdotes and conversation starters in Baumann’s writing.

Learn more about Sports Publishing.

Purchase Philadelphia Phenoms by Michael Baumann.

Mookie: Life, Baseball, and the ’86 Mets by Mookie Wilson and Erik Sherman (2015)

mookie

Mookie: Life, Baseball, and the ’86 Mets
by Mookie Wilson and Erik Sherman
Berkley, 2015
320 pages

Highly entertaining and brutally honest, Mookie Wilson’s autobiography stands as a testament to the legendary status of the 1986 New York Mets team. Wilson fills several pages with stories of his upbringing, his early years with the Mets, his trade to Toronto, and his post-baseball pursuits, but the majority of Mookie: Life, Baseball, and the ’86 Mets is understandably devoted to the domination of the 1986 team, the World Series against the Boston Red Sox, and the famous Bill Buckner error of Game Six.

Wilson has developed quite an interesting relationship with Buckner since their playing days, often appearing at autograph shows together to sign the famous photograph showing Wilson hustling down the first base line as Buckner turns around to find the ball that went between his legs. They have had many opportunities to work together at signings, and have almost worked together on the baseball diamond a few times, but those situations never worked out.

Wilson is upfront with his opinions and observations about his teammates throughout the book. He expresses his disappointment—and even anger, he says—at Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry and their drug abuse. He reveals the clubhouse’s true feelings about the late Gary Carter, who was seen as selfish and camera-hungry by many of his teammates. He also praises Keith Hernandez for the leadership he displayed after coming to New York from St. Louis in 1983. Very few players escaped Wilson’s pen, whether good or bad; the highs and lows of playing with George Foster, Lenny Dykstra, Lee Mazzilli, and Kevin McReynolds are all discussed.

Wilson also addresses the role his faith plays in his life, and the moral struggles athletes often face. In the final chapter, Wilson writes about his decision to become a minister. While I disagree with the doctrines his church teaches, I do applaud him for his commitment to morality and desire to spread his faith. The new paperback edition of Mookie: Life, Baseball, and the ’86 Mets contains a new afterword in which Wilson talks about the book tour and the reaction of former teammates and the media to the content of the book.

I first became a baseball fan during the Mets’ rise to dominance in 1986, and while they were not “my team,” I did enjoy watching them. Mookie: Life, Baseball, and the ’86 Mets brought back a lot of good memories, and I would recommend it to baseball fans without reservation.

Learn more about Berkley.

Purchase Mookie: Life, Baseball, and the ’86 Mets by Mookie Wilson and Erik Sherman.

The Edgar Allan Poe Keepsake Journal (2015)

poe

The Edgar Allan Poe Keepsake Journal
Rock Point, 2015
128 pages

The new Edgar Allan Poe Keepsake Journal comes with ten illustrated quote cards and 128 lined pages, some with quotes on them, to inspire writers. Poe is one of the most famous American authors in history, known for his mysterious tales, short stories of horror, and poetry such as “The Raven.”

The 7.5×9.8-inch journal seems to be designed for aspiring female writers, with a purple color scheme, but the quote cards may have more universal appeal. The quotes within the journal come not only from Poe’s stories and poems, but also from his letters. One such quote from a letter to James Russell Lowell reads, “My life has been whim—impulse—passion—a longing for solitude—a scorn of all things present, in an earnest desire for the future.”

My favorite of the quote cards shows an illustration of Poe, with a raven above his head, and the quote, “I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.” These cards are nicely done and would look nice framed or even taped or sticky-tacked to the wall around one’s writing station.

Learn more about Rock Point,

Purchase The Edgar Allan Poe Keepsake Journal.

Ted Williams and Friends: 1960-2002 by Dick Trust (2015)

the greatest hitter who ever lived

Ted Williams and Friends: 1960-2002
by Dick Trust
Arcadia Publishing, 2015
96 pages

One of the latest offerings from Arcadia Publishing’s “Images of Modern America” series, Dick Trust’s Ted Williams and Friends: 1960-2002 is a superb collection of photographs featuring the “Splendid Splinter” after his playing days. Many photos from Old Timers Days at Fenway Park are featured, showing “the greatest hitter who ever lived” along with former teammates and opponents such as Joe DiMaggio, Warren Spahn, Carl Yastrzemski, Jimmy Piersall, Jackie Jensen, and Bobby Doerr.

Other photos show Williams at his Hall of Fame induction in 1966, at Jimmy Fund activities, and at the 1999 All-Star Game with Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken. Trust ends the book with a reproduction of a personal letter Williams wrote to a young fan in 1943. The Hall of Famer said he didn’t answer many letters, but decided to respond to this fan “because you sounded like you wasn’t one of those meathead wolfs that howl there lungs out when they get to the ballpark.”

Ted Williams and Friends: 1960-2002 contains a fantastic assortment of photographs, and baseball fans will appreciate the historical significance of this volume.

Ted Williams and Friends: 1960-2002, $22.99, Arcadia Publishing. Available at local retailers, online bookstores, or through Arcadia Publishing at www.arcadiapublishing.com or (888) 313-2665.

Learn more about Arcadia Publishing.

Purchase Ted Williams and Friends: 1960-2002 by Dick Trust.

More than Beards, Bellies and Biceps: The Story of the 1993 Phillies (And the Phillie Phanatic Too) by Bob Gordon and Tom Burgoyne (2013)

beards

More than Beards, Bellies and Biceps: The Story of the 1993 Phillies
(And the Phillie Phanatic Too)

by Bob Gordon and Tom Burgoyne
Sports Publishing, 2013
272 pages

[Review by TWJ contributor Jim.]

The 1993 Phillies were one of many good teams to fall short of winning a title but they were truly one of a kind. They didn’t have any superstars, just a bunch of guys who played the game hard, with heart and left it all on the field. In More than Beards, Bellies and Biceps, authors Bob Gordon and Tom Burgoyne take a behind the scenes look at the 1993 Phillies, a team that lost the World Series that year in heartbreaking fashion. Readers also get a unique behind the scenes look at the Phillie Phanatic, the most popular mascot in the game.

The Phanatic has been pulling pranks and making fans laugh—or making them angry—since April 25, 1978, and you get to hear all about what went into making the Phanatic successful from the men who brought life to the green suit. As you read through the stories of the 1993 Phillies, stories about the Phanatic keep popping up when you least expect it, just like real life! The players had just as much fun as the Phanatic, from John Kruk, Darren Daulton and Curt Schilling to Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams, you will learn about the players’ approach to the game and that season and how it led to their success. Even if you are not a Phillies fan, More than Beards, Bellies and Biceps is a great read—not just for baseball fans, but for anyone who likes to laugh and can relate to people who have been written off by others but are able to rise to success.

Learn more about Sports Publishing.

Purchase More than Beards, Bellies and Biceps by Bob Gordon and Tom Burgoyne.

The Little Book of Jack the Ripper by the Whitechapel Society (2015)

littlebook

The Little Book of Jack the Ripper
by the Whitechapel Society
The History Press, 2015
192 pages

More than a century after his heinous crimes, Jack the Ripper still demands an audience unparalleled by any other serial killer. The nature of the crimes, the identity of the murderer, and his ability to avoid detection all feed the interest of true-crime enthusiasts across the globe. Volumes upon volumes have been published, detailing each crime, examining each suspect. The latest offering from the Whitechapel Society is another entry into the large bibliography related to Jack the Ripper.

More than ten members of the Whitechapel Society contribute to The Little Book of Jack the Ripper, with five chapters dedicated to the victims and another two chapters focused on the suspects. Much of this information has been available in other publications, though recent research has contributed some new information. There is no mention of James Carnac, the supposed author of the 2013 The Autobiography of Jack the Ripper, though other fairly recent suspects are included among the names.

One of the most interesting chapters in The Little Book of Jack the Ripper deals with the letters sent to the police and the press. Some of those letters were purportedly sent by the killer himself, though the veracity of their claims is dubious. Others were sent by well-meaning individuals, such as “A Country Doctor” who suggested the police round up “all cases of ‘homicidal mania’ which may have been discharged as ‘cured’ from metropolitan asylums.” Some of the writers, though well-intentioned, were downright unintelligent. One woman opined that the killer “may be a large animal of the Ape species belonging to some wild beast show.” Certainly entertaining to us today, but the original recipients of such letters must have been frustrated at the time wasted reading them.

The quality and organization of The Little Book of Jack the Ripper makes it a worthy addition to any true-crime or Ripper collection. The Whitechapel Society has done an excellent job with this publication.

Learn more about The History Press.

Purchase The Little Book of Jack the Ripper by the Whitechapel Society.

Painting The Corners: Off-Center Baseball Fiction by Bob Weintraub (2014)

painting

Painting The Corners: Off-Center Baseball Fiction
by Bob Weintraub
Yucca Publishing, 2014
224 pages

Baseball is, more than any other major sport, a game of numbers. Statistics play a greater role and hold more importance to fans in this sport than they do in football, basketball, or hockey. Pitching match-ups are analyzed, fielding metrics are scrutinized, hitting trends are studied, and all of this information is readily available to players, coaches, broadcasters, and casual fans with a few clicks of the computer mouse.

At the same time, however, baseball lends itself to art. Former Kansas City pitcher Dan Quisenberry wrote poetry about the game, and the late Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti wrote an impassioned essay entitled “The Green Fields of the Mind” about the national pastime. The sport is a favorite backdrop for Hollywood as well, serving comedies and dramas as well as biographical films. It is no surprise, therefore, to find a collection of short stories involving the diamond.

Bob Weintraub’s Painting The Corners: Off-Center Baseball Fiction is a fine collection of eleven tales mixing humanity, irony, and humor with our favorite game. Whether it is an elderly man signed for the express purpose of bunting runners over or an old-timer getting a second chance to make a play he flubbed during his career, Weintraub not only infuses just enough realism to make each story plausible, but enough imagination to make them enjoyment.

The way the stories are crafted will allow the reader to forgive the author for any predictability in the plots. If you can’t wait for Opening Day, or if your team falters out of the gate, Painting The Corners may help cure your baseball blues.

Learn more about Yucca Publishing.

Purchase Painting the Corners by Bob Weintraub.

Growing Up Pedro by Matt Tavares (2015)

pedro

Growing Up Pedro
by Matt Tavares
Candlewick Press, 2015
40 pages

Following excellent books about Hank Aaron and Ted Williams, the latest subject of a Matt Tavares children’s baseball biography is new Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez. Tavares tells young readers the story of a young boy who grew up watching his brother Ramon Martinez pitch in the Dominican Republic, dreaming of playing together in the major leagues. The author and illustrator follows Pedro’s journey pitching with his brother in Los Angeles, to becoming the best pitcher in baseball in Montreal, to a World Championship in Boston.

Tavares is in top form as his illustrations help tell the story of one of the greatest pitchers of the past thirty years. The book is aimed toward 8-12 year olds, and the text is certainly written on that level, but the artwork can be appreciated by baseball fans of any age. Tavares’ illustrations perfectly depicts Pedro’s intensity.

Learn more about Matt Tavares.

Learn more about Candlewick Press.

Purchase Growing Up Pedro by Matt Tavares.

101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out by Josh Pahigian (2015)

101baseball

101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out
by Josh Pahigian
Lyons Press, 2015 (2nd Edition)
256 pages

Everyone has a bucket list, even if it is not written down. Many baseball fans’ bucket lists are full of places to see, be it stadiums, museums, or other exhibits. Author Josh Pahigian gives baseball bucket listers a leg up with the second edition 101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out. There are ballparks—major league, minor league, and amateur—and museums, but Pahigian goes a little deeper with some out-of-the-ordinary stops as well.

The Beyond the Vines Columbarium located at the Bohemian National Cemetery in Chicago has to be one of the most interesting entries. Although I would not rank it as high as Pahigian (who places it at #9), I am intrigued by the site and plan to make it a part of my next trip to Chicago, along with the Batcolumn (#32 on his list). I would personally replace several of the minor league and amateur parks with museums and major league stadiums, but that’s the beauty of bucket lists. Everyone has different goals and different destinations.

101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out is a must-have for the baseball traveler, a handy guide to alert yourself to baseball attractions in the vicinity of your next family vacation.

Learn more about Lyons Press.

Purchase 101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out by Josh Pahigian.

You Can’t Make This Up by Al Michaels with L. Jon Wertheim (2014)

al michaels you cant make this up

You Can’t Make This Up
by Al Michaels with L. Jon Wertheim
William Morrow, 2014
304 pages

[Review by new TWJ contributor Jim. We are excited to have Jim as a part of the TWJ team, and look forward to future reviews!]

When I saw Al Michaels had written a book, I knew I would have to get my hands on a copy to hear all the great stories he had to tell. I was not disappointed in the least. Al was flawless in relaying hundreds of stories over his career and beforehand as well. Born to a loving mother and father in Brooklyn, Al never had to eat vegetables and grew up watching the Dodgers at Ebbets Field after attending school n the morning because the school was too crowded for him to go all day. Then he moved to Los Angeles and attended Arizona State University to develop his broadcasting skills.

Of his many stories, one of the highlights for me was him talking about his first impression of Cincinnati when he arrived. He was the broadcaster of a minor league team in Hawaii before he came to Cincinnati, so he was taken aback by the winter scenery. He also felt that living in the great state of Kentucky was a little too much of a step back from Hawaii. He tells of a time when Reds broadcaster Joe Nuxhall cussed out some players who were playing a joke on him and it went out on the broadcast. Growing up listening to Nuxhall, I laughed, picturing him doing something like that. All in all, You Can’t Make This Up is a great book for any sports fan. Al has experiences in many different sports, so there is something for everyone.

Learn more about William Morrow.

Purchase You Can’t Make This Up by Al Michaels.

100 Years of Who’s Who in Baseball by the Staff of Who’s Who in Baseball and Douglas B. Lyons (2015)

100 Years of Whos Who in Baseball

100 Years of Who’s Who in Baseball
by the Staff of Who’s Who in Baseball and Douglas B. Lyons
Lyons Press, 2015
216 pages

Who’s Who in Baseball debuted in 1912 with a cover price of fifteen cents. There were no new editions until 1916, when it became a yearly publication. Boasting lifetime records of star players originally, Who’s Who in Baseball now chronicles career statistics and photos of every major league ballplayer. This volume, 100 Years of Who’s Who in Baseball, is not a collection of all those records, but rather a collection of the covers of each previous Who’s Who, along with brief biographical sketches of the cover boys—from Ty Cobb to Babe Ruth to Miguel Cabrera to Mike Trout—and happenings in the big leagues.

If you are familiar with Who’s Who in Baseball, and simply want to see every black-and-white (with a red background) cover through the years, you will not be disappointed. However, if you are looking for in-depth discussion of the players and events, you might find 100 Years lacking. Many of the biographies barely reach a half page, at least until the 1960s, when more than one player is consistently featured. There are also some editorial oversights throughout, such as listing Tom Browning‘s perfect game among the 1998 highlights rather than 1988.

As a history book, 100 Years of Who’s Who in Baseball will leave the reader wanting more. As a celebration of the annual publication, though, it is adequate.

Learn more about Lyons Press.

Purchase 100 Years of Who’s Who in Baseball.

Henry Aaron’s Dream by Matt Tavares (2010)

Henry Aarons Dream book review

Henry Aaron’s Dream
by Matt Tavares
Candlewick Press, 2010
40 pages

When Hank Aaron was young, there were no black men playing baseball in the major leagues. Jackie Robinson‘s debut in 1947 paved the way for players like Aaron to show the world their talents. Author Matt Tavares writes about a time in Aaron’s life many ignore: his early years in Mobile, Alabama, and his brief time in the Negro Leagues with the Mobile Black Bears and Indianapolis Clowns. There are also several pages devoted to Aaron’s life in the minor leagues, both on and off the field, and finally his ascent to the majors in 1954. Though he was not the first black baseball player, Aaron still faced a great deal of racism as he played the game he loved.

Much like There Goes Ted Williams, the best part of Henry Aaron’s Dream is the artwork. Written for third through seventh graders, Tavares’ artwork makes the story come alive for youngsters who are being taught about the legends of baseball as well as important social issues. There is nothing new here for long-time fans of the great home run hitter, but the beautiful illustrations easily make it worth the purchase price.

Learn more about Matt Tavares.

Learn more about Candlewick Press.

Purchase Henry Aaron’s Dream by Matt Tavares.

Super Baseball Infographics by Eric Braun, illustrated by Laura Westlund (2015)

Super Baseball Infographics

Super Baseball Infographics
by Eric Braun, illustrated by Laura Westlund
Lerner Publications, 2015
32 pages

Infographics are a great way to learn facts about almost subject. The internet is littered with thousands of infographics on a variety of topics. Eric Braun and illustrator Laura Westlund have joined forces to put sports facts in infographic form for younger readers to introduce them to the games we play. Super Baseball Infographics is a nice collection of random facts, such as the greatest home run hitters in history, the number of World Series won by each team, and the science behind fastballs and curveballs.

Super Baseball Infographics is designed as a simple introduction to the sport, and does not contain a great deal of information so it should not overwhelm young readers who are just learning about the big leagues.

Also available in the Super Sports Infographics series are books about football, basketball, and hockey.

Learn more about Lerner Publications.

Purchase Super Baseball Infographics by Eric Braun, illustrated by Laura Westlund.

Facing Michael Jordan edited by Sean Deveney with Kent McDill (2014)

Facing Michael Jordan

Facing Michael Jordan: Players Recall the Greatest Basketball Player Who Ever Lived
edited by Sean Deveney with Kent McDill
Sports Publishing, 2014
224 pages

Former Knicks and Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said, “[I]f you don’t take a peek back every once in a while, you can start to forget just how great he was.” Only twelve years after his retirement, it is difficult to believe anyone has forgotten Michael Jordan‘s legendary work on the hardwood. But just in case anyone has doubts, fans can be reminded by reading Sean Deveney and Kent McDill’s Facing Michael Jordan: Players Recall the Greatest Basketball Player Who Ever Lived.

First-hand accounts from Hall of Famers Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson, and Dominique Wilkins show the respect that even the greats had for the greatest. But Deveney and McDill did not simply talk to the household names for this volume. They also included memories from David Henderson, whose experience with Jordan happened in college, and Iowa coach George Raveling, who was introduced to MJ at the 1984 USA Basketball tryouts. Several modern players were also interviewed for the book, including Dwyane Wade and Jabari Parker, who talked about the legacy Jordan left for younger generations.

The only shortcoming here is the omission of Jordan’s short-lived and less-than-stellar professional baseball career. More than fifty NBA players and coaches shared their memories and experiences with the greatest basketball player of all-time. Facing Michael Jordan is a wonderful tribute to the man who inspired many to spend a little more time working on their dunking skills and tongue-wagging.

Learn more about Sports Publishing.

Purchase Facing Michael Jordan: Players Recall the Greatest Basketball Player Who Ever Lived edited by Sean Deveney with Kent McDill.

Great Stuff: Baseball’s Most Amazing Pitching Feats by Rich Westcott (2014)

Great Stuff Rich Westcott

Great Stuff: Baseball’s Most Amazing Pitching Feats
by Rich Westcott
Sports Publishing, 2014
336 pages

Even in the era of inflated offense, great pitching shines through. Author Rich Westcott looks back at the history of pitching since the distance of the mound was moved to sixty feet, six inches, and examines some of the greatest performances on record. Certainly most will recognize the Hall of Famers included in this volume, such as Steve Carlton, who won 27 games when his team only won 59; Bob Feller, whose big league debut is unmatched to date; and Nolan Ryan, the master of the no-hitter. Also included are lesser-known hurlers such as Mike Marshall, who appeared in 106 games in one season; Don Newcombe, who won both the Cy Young and MVP Award in 1956; and Ed Reulbach, who pitched two shutouts in a single day. The book isn’t entirely about old-timers. Modern pitchers such as Francisco Rodriguez, Roy Halladay, Randy Johnson, and Justin Verlander are also featured.

Westcott delves deep into these men, their feats, and what they meant to the game. The emphasis is not on a player’s career, but rather single season or single game feats, though career highlights are a part of the discussion where appropriate. Johnny Vander Meer‘s back-to-back no-hitters are obviously a part of the book, but Westcott also makes mention of his 1952 minor league no-no, pitched in front of only 335 spectators.

Great Stuff is a great overview of pitching accomplishments that may never be duplicated again. Baseball history buffs will absolutely love it. The only knock against it is calling Mark Buehrle “Mike” in the chapter that extols his 45 consecutive hitters retired.

Learn more about Sports Publishing.

Purchase Great Stuff: Baseball’s Most Amazing Pitching Feats by Rich Westcott.

Hoosier Killers: Indiana’s Darkest History by Ed Wenck (2014)

Hoosier Killers

Hoosier Killers: Indiana’s Darkest History
by Ed Wenck
Blue River Press, 2014
220 pages

The level of depravity to which some humans are able to sink is a source of fascination for those who are otherwise “normal” people. From true crime television programs such as Snapped to fictional drama series like Criminal Minds, the general public loves to explore evil minds. There is no shortage of books on morbid subjects, either.

Hoosier Killers: Indiana’s Darkest History by Ed Wenck is one of the latest true crime books that examines a variety of murderers. There are sections devoted to serial killers, mass murderers, killings motivated by racial factors, gang killers, individual homicides, and notorious murderers that spent a portion of their lives in Indiana prior to succumbing to the urge to take another life. Wenck does not pull any punches, describing in detail some of the gruesome acts perpetrated by Leslie Irvin and William Clyde Gibson. There is the unsolved case of four young fast food employees killed during a robbery at a Burger Chef restaurant in 1978; the bodies were found weeks later in three different locations.

A number of female murderers are also profiled, including Sarah Jo Ponder and Gertrude Baniszewski. Perhaps the most interesting, however, is Belle Gunness, who did her dirty work in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and purportedly evaded capture by killing and burning a newly hired housekeeper while leaving her own dental bridgework. Wenck points out inconsistencies between Gunness and the charred corpse that was left behind that makes the reader wonder why the police did not investigate further. Years later, another woman who resembled Gunness turned up in San Francisco under the name Esther Carlson, and those who knew the woman in Indiana were convinced Gunness and Carlson were the same person.

As for the “traveling killers,” those who spent a part of their life in the Hoosier state before committing heinous acts elsewhere, Wenck examines such infamous names as John Dillinger, Charles Manson, and Jim Jones. Their stories are well-known, and the information in Hoosier Killers does not shed much new light on these men, but their inclusion here does not harm the overall purpose of the book.

True crime enthusiasts will find Hoosier Killers interesting, with thirty chapters devoted to unthinkable acts.

Learn more about Blue River Press.

Purchase Hoosier Killers: Indiana’s Darkest History by Ed Wenck.

Revival: A Novel by Stephen King (2014)

Stephen King Revival book review

Revival: A Novel
by Stephen King
Scribner, 2014
405 pages

No horror author has enjoyed as much success as Stephen King in modern times. His classic novels—many of which have been adapted for Hollywood—are regarded as the benchmark for horror of the late twentieth century. It is good to see that King has not lost his touch with his latest release, Revival: A Novel.

The story starts off a bit slow, beginning in the protagonist Jamie Morton’s childhood and his first meeting with the minister Charles Jacobs. The story tells of the minister’s interest—intense interest—in electricity as a science, and a tragedy that shakes Jacobs’ faith, leading to his departure from the small town where the Morton family lives. King proceeds to follow Jamie’s story, his love for the guitar and various bands he played with, his descent into drug abuse, and his next meeting with Jacobs several years later at a state fair. After this encounter, the two separate again, only to meet again many years later. Jacobs is convinced that Jamie is a part of his destiny, and his obsession with electricity leads him to perform experiments that makes Jamie (and others who encounter Jacobs) very nervous.

By the time the reader reaches the climax, the pages can’t be turned fast enough. Jamie’s curiosity in Jacobs’ experiments feed the reader’s curiosity, and the ultimate experiment gives a nod to both Mary Shelley and H.P. Lovecraft. Although it starts slow and takes a while to build, the bizarre payoff is well worth it. Revival is a fine addition to Stephen King’s already impressive bibliography.

Learn more about Scribner.

Purchase Revival: A Novel by Stephen King.

Unbreakable: The 25 Most Unapproachable Records in Baseball by James R. Baehler (2014)

Unbreakable book

Unbreakable: The 25 Most Unapproachable Records in Baseball
by James R. Baehler
Sports Publishing, 2014
224 pages

Baseball is a game of numbers, and the historical importance of statistics to baseball fans is unparalleled in sports. Author James R. Baehler explores twenty-five records that he believes may never be matched in Unbreakable: The 25 Most Unapproachable Records in Baseball. Baehler focuses on those records that were achieved since 1900, citing the way the game has changed as the reason to exclude Cy Young’s 511 wins among other feats from the discussion.

Readers will find discussions of twenty players who hold twenty-four distinct records in this book, from Hall of Famers Ty Cobb and Walter Johnson to Steve Carlton and Rickey Henderson. A small number of non-Hall of Famers are also examined, such as Eddie Gaedel (shortest player in history) and Harvey Haddix (most perfect innings pitched in a single game). The twenty-fifth record the author looks at is the futility of the Chicago Cubs, with their 106-plus years without a World Championship.

Baehler is not content to simply list these twenty-five records and write about them, though. He delves into many interesting stories that have nothing to do with the records under consideration, like Babe Ruth’s difficulty when facing pitcher Hub Pruett, and briefly ponders other off-topic questions, such as Dave Kingman’s worthiness of the Hall of Fame.

He further makes no secret of his disdain for artificial statistics achieved through chemical enhancement. When discussing Hack Wilson’s record of most runs batted in during a single season, Baehler writes, “This baseball fan gives no credence to the records of McGwire and Sosa….Hack Wilson still holds the National League record for home runs in a single season achieved without the assistance of performance enhancing drugs, the only record that matters.”

Unbreakable is a fairly quick read, relying more on traditional statistics that the advanced metrics often cited today by younger sportswriters. Baseball fans with an interest in the history of the game should find it very interesting, and will no doubt be entertained by Baehler’s anecdotes and common sense style of writing.

Learn more about Sports Publishing.

Purchase Unbreakable: The 25 Most Unapproachable Records in Baseball by James R. Baehler.

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars Trilogy by Ian Doescher (2014)

Shakespeare Star Wars

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars Trilogy: The Royal Imperial Boxed Set
by Ian Doescher
Quirk Books, 2014
520 pages

The greatest story in modern cinema, retold in the style of the greatest playwright of all-time, Ian Doescher’s William Shakespeare’s Star Wars Trilogy is a treat for fans of the galactic tale and the Bard alike. Ian Doescher channels the language of Shakespeare in this retelling, a brilliant parody that reads like a serious play, almost entirely in iambic pentameter. There are exceptions to the style, such as Boba Fett (prose), Yoda (haiku), and the Ewoks (short AABA lines). Han and Leia emulate Romeo and Juliet, speaking in rhyming couplets to each other in private, while the chorus is granted rhymes and occasional sonnets.

The reader is sure to encounter some surprises, as R2-D2 is revealed to have a witty command of the English language, though he reserves that for asides, speaking in beeps when other characters can hear. Doescher lifts themes and rewords famous lines and even soliloquies, such as Darth Vader’s appropriation of Hamlet in portions of The Jedi Doth Return. Doescher also provides insight into the mind of the Wampa in The Empire Striketh Back and the Rancor in The Jedi Doth Return, allowing them to speak (or sing, in the case of the Rancor) to the audience.

Doescher’s William Shakespeare’s Star Wars Trilogy is a fantastic and entertaining way to relive the story of Luke, Han, Leia and the rest of the Rebellion in their battles against the Empire. Highly recommended for Star Wars fans.

William Shakespeare’s Foorsooth, The Phantom Menace. is scheduled for an April 2015 release.

Download the Educator’s Guide for William Shakespeare’s Star Wars.

Learn more about Quirk Books.

Purchase William Shakespeare’s Star Wars Trilogy: The Royal Imperial Boxed Set by Ian Doescher.

Field of Fantasies: Baseball Stories of the Strange and Supernatural edited by Rick Wilber (2014)

Field of Fantasies Rick Wilber

Field of Fantasies: Baseball Stories of the Strange and Supernatural
edited by Rick Wilber
Night Shade Books, 2014
320 pages

Baseball is an important part of America’s imagination. Some of the most popular baseball tales weave fact with fiction, presenting historical figures in a fictitious settings, and vice versa. Field of Fantasies, an anthology edited by Rick Wilber, presents twenty-three supernatural baseball stories culled from the past seven decades and includes a handful that appear for the first time in print.

A number of literary heavyweights are included in this collection, from Jack Kerouac to W.P. Kinsella to Ray Bradbury. The modern-day master of horror himself, Stephen King, co-wrote a story with Stewart O’Nan called “A Face in the Crowd” that was previously only available digitally. Bradbury’s “Ahab At The Helm” marries Moby Dick with the classic poem “Casey At The Bat” in a brilliant mash-up. Casey also appears in Robert Coover’s “McDuff on the Mound,” a re-telling of Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s poem from the pitcher’s perspective.

Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling also wrote a story entitled “The Mighty Casey,” but it has nothing to do with the Mudville legend. The story originally aired on the program in 1960, and was re-written for Serling’s Stories From The Twilight Zone anthology prior to its inclusion here.

Most baseball fans are familiar with W.P. Kinsella as the inspiration for the Kevin Costner film Field of Dreams. The short story here, “How I Got My Nickname,” follows the exploits of a teenager who plays for the New York Giants during the pennant stretch of 1951, and his debates with teammates and opponents about whether The Great Gatsby is an allegory.

The editor, Rick Wilber, is a journalism professor at the University of South Florida, and his father Del Wilber played for the Cardinals, Phillies, and Red Sox in the 1940s and 1950s. This book is a great tribute to the game and provides some comfort to those who just can’t wait for the season to begin in April.

Learn more about Night Shade Books.

Purchase Field of Fantasies edited by Rick Wilber.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 542 other followers

%d bloggers like this: