Monday, October 22, 2012

Charlie Stella, Christy Mathewson, and me

One way I keep sane amid my current wave of side projects is to read for work during the day, for pleasure at night. That way I do what needs doing, and I send myself to sleep on a wave of good thoughts, work the farthest thing from my mind.

My most recent pleasure reading was Charlie Stella's Rough Riders, and man, this guy keeps getting better and better. He sets this novel, his eighth, in and around Minot, North Dakota, where he went to college. A killer from his 2001 book Eddie’s World has entered the federal Witness Protection Program and wound up in North Dakota, working a sting for the feds and also a side project of his own: a murder for hire in return for a share of a heroin stash into which a crooked Air Force physician has stumbled by accident. But a New York detective wants the killer also and tails him across the country to get him.

The plot, needless to say, is complex but not obtrusively so. Nor is Stella condescending in the least toward the characters and the landscape so different from those of his previous books. And he handles the clash between local cops and the FBI, a feature of approximately every American police novel or television show of the last twenty years, with great understatement and, hence, believability.

The jokes are fewer than in Stella’s previous books but the conversational byplay is just as bracing. And that tells me that Stella knows how to write believable human interaction and not just jokes.

Here are my previous posts about Stella (click the link, then scroll down), whom I recently proclaimed my favorite American crime writer.

And here, for the first time before the crime reading public, is the first of those side projects I keep going on about: my piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer about a century-old baseball book by that remarkable character (and great player) Christy Mathewson that's as fresh as today’s headlines.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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9 Comments:

Blogger Dana King said...

Great article, and for once I know what I'm talking about. I read PITCHING IN A PINCH several years ago, hearing of it in Bill James's HISTORICAL BASEBALL ABSTRACT. It's a quick and delightful read, full of stories like those you quoted, and insights that make the game of 100 years ago come alive for a true seamhead such as myself. Comparing it to BALL FOUR written by James is a good analogy.

As for the accuracy of Mathewson's writing, I have read stories (possibly apocryphal, but the germ had to come from somewhere) of teams asking him to settle disagreements with the umpires, such was his reputation. He is acknowledged to be possibly the only person willing to go on the record as saying the Black Sox were throwing the 1919 series while it was happening.

Everyhting I've read about him says he was an admirable man, as well as one of the greatest pitchers ever. Thanks for reminding me of him, and of this book.

October 22, 2012  
Blogger John McFetridge said...

When I ordered Rough Riders I was told that customers who bought it also bought books by Dennis Lehane and Don Winslow. I hope Charlie sells as well as those guys soon.

I just can't believe a book called Rough Riders has no CFL connection....

October 22, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Dana, I like the word seamhead. Thanks for using it. And thanks for the compliment on the article.

I can picture Mathewson smiling as he mentally translated Clarke's real words into:

" 'Say,' said Clarke to Brennan, 'I know a pickpocket who looks honest compared to you, and I'd rather trust my watch to a second-story worker.' "

Mathewson appears to have been an admirable figure, all right: Colin Powell with a good fastball.

October 22, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

John: There is the Teddy Roosevelt connection, but one has to suspect subliminal CFL leanings from an author who once wrote a character who had passed up a chance to play in "the Canadian league."

October 22, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Dana, Mathewson managed the Cincinnati Reds in 1916, '17, and '18. In 1919, of course, they played the Black Sox in the World Series. I wonder if Mathewson picked up suspicions from his former players about what the White Sox were doing.

October 22, 2012  
Blogger Charlieopera said...

Very kind words ... Charlie sells as good as the Buffalo Bills play defense ... his latest marketing strategy with ebooks has proven another ginormous windfall ... uping his monthly amazon sales of books he retains rights to from 8-12 a month to 10-20 ... nowhere near the 8,000 a month I hear most others are selling, but this could have me owning the Buffalo Bills soon (especially if one were to value them today ... worth about 1/100,000,000th of what they paid Super Bust Mario Williams). 10-20 ebooks a month ... I see caviar and champagne ... bling up the kazoo ... all I need is a hedge fund manager and I'm home free.

As of yesterday, I HATE the Buffalo Bills ... well, the owner/management ... and a few select players ... and the entire coaching staff.

October 23, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'm an outsider, but when I read about the trouble some of my favorite authors have selling books, I think something must be wrong with the state of the world. I don't know if people are stupid, if they're being starved of good reading, if the publishing-industrial complex is perpetrating the starvation ...

In the near term, are you in shape to suit up for the Bills? Could be a win-win proposition.

October 23, 2012  
Blogger Charlieopera said...

My wife says I am in shape for a stroke ... watching the Bills on NFL ticket should facilitate one. Arthritis has made it easy for me to give up (at least temporarily) ... very depressing at times ... but I'm not playing for THAT team until THAT owner either sells them or gives them away ... by then they'll be the LA Bills and I'll have nothing to do with them (and forced to watch hockey) ...

October 25, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Sounds to me like you'd fit in fine on the Bills' defense.

Is there talk that they'll be the team to move to L.A.? I know they've been playing games in Toronto for a while.

October 25, 2012  

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