A collection of muscular reportage from the pages of Playboy.
Author and Playboy contributing editor Littman’s five feature-length articles demonstrate the power of shoe-leather reporting as a means of riveting readers. Loosely connected by the theme of contemporary men’s passions, these narratives use two distinct approaches—immediate, present-tense accounts and stories assembled after-the-fact and told in the past tense—and each approach has its merits. In one story, Littman gains entrance to one of the world’s most prestigious golf tournaments, the Masters—and does so by hobnobbing with Georgia gentry on $100 a day. In another story, Littman enters the edgy world of Super Bowl ticket scalpers. Both insider stories are rich in detail, with the golf piece reveling in Littman’s dreamy love of the tournament’s inherent beauty and his disdain for its cultivated exclusiveness. Jacksonville’s Super Bowl XXXIX, conversely, is the site of rough-and-ready underground commerce, where characters hustle tickets with the up-against-it verve of players from early Quentin Tarantino films. In another present-tense piece, Littman trains with the world’s fastest sprinters, again putting readers in the rush of the moment. One of the book’s two assembled, past-tense stories—an insightful take on steroids—works well but feels slightly dated through no fault of the author’s; it’s hard to view baseball slugger Barry Bonds as the biggest witch-hunt victim of the performance-enhancement era while Roger Clemens faces prison and Bonds was embraced by his former San Francisco Giants teammates through their 2010 championship run. The gem of the collection, the reconstruction of a fraternity hazing that ends in death, demonstrates a still-more sophisticated technique. Littman layers a series of startling events—Chico State pledges and brothers demonstrating youthful ambition, then tragedy—with enough realism to make readers unfamiliar with the event’s actual facts believe the reporter was on the scene.
Littman’s plainspoken journalism reminds readers that, even in the Google era, there’s no substitute for hard-nosed journalism.