Books by Donald Honig

THE FIFTH SEASON by Donald Honig
Released: March 6, 2009

"Appealing, affecting stories too often prevented from soaring by the weight of hero-worship and self-regard."
Nature's four seasons are inadequate, we learn in this scattered, disjunctive memoir by one of the deans of diamond writing. We need a fifth—baseball season. Read full book review >
Released: March 4, 1997

Veteran sportswriter Honig continues his new sub-career with this second historical crime novel (following The Sword of General Englund, 1996) featuring Civil War veteran Captain Thomas Maynard. Several years after the war, Maynard, now based in Washington and in trouble for having ``offended'' a loutish superior officer, is dispatched to Baddock, a remote and lawless town in the Montana Territory, for the purpose of raising a ghost. Or so it seems: A former soldier, arriving in Baddock, had reported spotting the eponymous Major, a decorated officer who perished on the battlefield and was buried with full military honors—and was subsequently himself shot to death by an unknown assailant. Was the murdered man mistaken, or did Major Pryor desert his regiment, and- -according to details Maynard uncovers piece by piece—commit more than this one murder to cover his tracks? This is only one of the mysteries into which Maynard is drawn, the other being the identity of the brains behind a gang of ``road agents'' who routinely prey on the stagecoaches linking Baddock to the outside world. Honig's double plot is seasoned with several vigorous action scenes (Maynard is, of course, a crack shot and has the requisite nerves of steel), but the story is slowed by the long conversations in which his hero repeatedly indulges—usually with a saturnine journalist, Simon Patterson, but also with a passel of indignant and bloodthirsty townsmen, any one of whom could be the elusive major. More agreeably, he spends considerable time in the arms of Theodora Diamond, a large-hearted prostitute who's the kind of woman for whom a man might be tempted to give up his commission. Both lethal puzzles are satisfactorily solved, the primary one through Maynard's deciphering of a cleverly planted verbal clue, and he returns to Washington, mission accomplished. A shade less well turned than its predecessor, if only because it's so talky, but effective (if unexceptional) entertainment nonetheless. Read full book review >
Released: March 4, 1996

In a remarkable change of pace, Honig, best known for baseball fiction (Last Man Out, 1993, etc.), has produced a wonderfully haunting tale of military crime and punishment on the American frontier. When word reaches Washington in the spring of 1876 that General Alfred Englund has been savagely murdered in the dead of night within the confines of his remote command (Fort Larkin in the Dakota Territory), there is shock but little surprise in the US Army's officer corps: Few of his colleagues expected that this magnificently mad avatar of the Union Cause would meet a normal end. A warrior who inspired considerable awe, Englund had supposedly once had his sword struck by a lightning bolt as he hurled it heavenward while rallying troops on the eve of a Civil War battle. Although the facts suggest that Englund and a corporal of the guard who was found stabbed to death at the same time were both butchered by a senior officer at Fort Larkin, a local board of inquiry cannot identify the killer. Under direct orders from President Grant, Captain Thomas Maynard (who'd been helping to plan the celebration of the nation's Centennial in Philadelphia) is sent West to bring the assassin to justice. A blooded up-from-the-ranks veteran of the Civil War, Maynard has a guilty secret of his own. In the course of his discreet investigation into the coincidental deaths, he learns that most of Englund's senior officers (who were preparing to march against Northern Plains tribes resentful of the gold rush that had defiled their sacred Black Hills) had reason to fear and hate their commander. By patiently sifting through the evidence, the outsider is able to solve the mystery of Fort Larkin and its dangerously evangelical commander. A thoroughly adult Western that addresses great themes—duty, honor, and losses of innocence—within the context of an absorbing, suspenseful narrative. Read full book review >
LAST MAN OUT by Donald Honig
Released: May 11, 1993

It's 1946 and sportswriter Joe Tinker (The Plot to Kill Jackie Robinson, 1992) is looking froward to spring training and the appearance of Brooklyn Dodger phenom Harvey Tippen when—just before the camp opens—Harvey becomes suspect #1 in the death of post-deb and full-time party girl Gloria Manley, who was maliciously stringing the young rube along—and was last seen humiliating him at a nightclub. Did Harvey kill her and her Spanish-speaking maid Maria? Tinker encroaches on the territory of both the cops and the crime reporters as he interviews the other partygoers on that fateful night, and their gossip reveals a cruel practical joke set up by Gloria. Before long, two more are dead, and the suspicion is that the chief target was the maid, not Gloria. There'll be more visits to the Stork Club, El Morocco, etc., before Tinker ties in the murders with a strong-arm fascist sympathizer who decimated the Abraham Lincoln Brigade during the war. Not much baseball, but a clear depiction of post-traumatic stress syndrome (or ``battle fatigue,'' as it was called in the 40's), plus a sharp look at vintage club-and-sybarite scene. Read full book review >
Released: May 8, 1992

It's 1947, and Branch Rickey is about to change the all-white face of baseball forever: He is bringing in Jackie Robinson to play first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers. During spring training in Cuba, Robinson receives death threats and is followed, while Daily News sportswriter Joe Tinker wonders whether there's a connection between the threats and the murder of an ex-middle-weight club fighter, who may have been killed for not fulfilling his role as Jackie's assassin. The trail ties in with another death, that of hero cop Harry Wilson, who was shot in a black prostitute's Greenwich Village apartment. Harry's brother, rabidly anti- ''coloreds,'' has just returned from Cuba, and while Robinson prepares for opening day, the threats escalate. Tinker uncovers Harry's unconventional (for the 1940's) love-life and how it influenced his hero-worshipping younger brother—leading to a sniper in Ebbets Field who's ready to gun down Robinson unless Tinker can stop him. Earnest, but one could blow Cuban-cigar rings through the holes in the plot (a Day of the Jackal spinoff), and the '40's ambiance is negligible. Honig (Marching Home, 1980, etc.) is strong on baseball lore, weak on characterization and poetics. Read full book review >