BLUE RUIN by Brendan Boyd


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 Sportswriter Boyd (The Great American Baseball Card Book, etc.) recounts the story of how professional gamblers fixed the Black Sox series. Boyd's twist on this familiar material is to make the players peripheral to the gamblers. His narrator, Joseph ``Sport'' Sullivan, a small-time chiseler with dreams he's never acted on, spends a hundred pages peddling the fix to gambling kingpin Arnold Rothstein, who'll supply the payoff money, and to eight of the players, who'll throw the games. In effect, then, Sport is nobody, just a man with an idea that takes on a life of its own. In tracking the fate of Sport's dream of the perfect scam, Boyd shoves everything and everyone else offstage- -the intrigues and double-crosses that drive down the odds on Cincinnati before Sport can get his money down, the obligatory historical cameos (Ring Lardner, George M. Cohan, Jack Dempsey, Babe Ruth, etc.), and the Series itself (which flashes by in a blur as Sport, accompanied by a distant pickup named Rose, scurries to compound his wagers after each game). The payoff comes in the long, memorably dreary epilogue, as Sport, rich but terminally aimless, drifts from Chicago to California to New York and Boston trying to spend his money and set up another score on his own: a Hollywood picture, a bicycle race, a prizefight, another Series. But the price for these powerfully depressive chapters is high: everybody but sententious Sport (who warns aptly of moments ``so ripe with contrary significance that I might easily allegorize them out of existence'') passes by shrouded in fog. Boyd is no E. L. Doctorow or F. Scott Fitzgerald; he may remind you more of your garrulous Uncle Bill. Even so, this is a genuinely original retake on one of the most compelling American fables.

Pub Date: Sept. 23rd, 1991
ISBN: 0-393-03020-2
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1991