An entertaining account of one of baseball’s sorriest chapters.

CHEATED

THE INSIDE STORY OF THE ASTROS SCANDAL AND A COLORFUL HISTORY OF SIGN STEALING

A sportswriter recaps one of the biggest cheating scandals in baseball history.

As Martino documents, the cheating began with “the legitimate use of an exciting new toy,” the Edgertronic, a high-speed camera that could capture 1,000 frames per second. The Houston Astros intended to use it to record hitters’ swings for later study, but bench coach Álex Cora wondered if it could be used for “picking sequences off a monitor” to determine what a pitcher was about to throw during a game. Thus began the scandal in which the Astros used electronic equipment to steal signals throughout their 2017 World Series–winning campaign, as well as other bits of chicanery, such as banging on trash cans to tell their hitters the type of pitch headed their way. In a smart move, Martino begins with a lively roundup of baseball’s past scandals, starting with Phillies’ third-base coach and “lifelong reprobate” Pearce Chiles, who, in 1900, hatched a plan whereby a player in the center-field stands used opera glasses to pick up the opposing catcher’s signs. The author describes the motivations of the principal figures in the Astros scandal, including the “highly studious” Cora; Carlos Beltrán, who, after 20 seasons, was “starving for a championship; and manager A.J. Hinch, who, “conflict-averse to a fault,” disapproved of the shenanigans but didn’t stop them. A deeper book would have delved further into the scandal’s implications—on the game, on players and unions, on the role of technology and social media—but this one succeeds as a well-written work of straightforward reportage certain to appeal to baseball fans. Along the way, Martino documents countless jaw-dropping examples of moral laxity—e.g., when General Manager Jeff Luhnow, also implicated in the scandal, considered signing a pitcher accused of domestic violence and said to his lieutenants, “I don’t want your moral opinion, I want your baseball opinion.”

An entertaining account of one of baseball’s sorriest chapters.

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54679-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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