A story by a baseball fan for baseball fans—but you really, really have to be one.
The author of three well-received naval technothrillers (H.M.S. Unseen, 1999, etc.) throws a change-up here, delivering the tale of a father and son hopelessly in thrall “to the beloved game.” The Fabers, Ben and Jack, are hardscrabble Louisiana sugarcane farmers. What sustains them year after enervating year is Jack’s blazing talent, the care and feeding of it. The boy can flat out pitch. Almost from the time he could walk, he could throw—harder and straighter than any kid anywhere near his age. At 12, he had “the oil-smooth action of a major leaguer.” Now 20, he’s an authentic college star en route, as the story opens, to play in New England’s prestigious Cape Marlin summer league, where scouts from “the Bigs” are known to hover. Much rides on Jack’s strong right arm—a major-league career the only shot the Fabers have ever had at leaving poverty behind them. His quality fastball and above-average curve stand him in good stead at Cape Marlin, but it’s the slider, the unhittable slider, painstakingly taught him by his dad, that makes Jack special. It starts out as a fastball, and then—too late for batters to adjust—it sheds velocity, dips, and frustrates. Jack, however, has a tenuous relationship with his quirky weapon. He doesn't quite trust it, regards it as potentially subversive, likely to betray him at some critical juncture in his life. And, nudged along by a truly malevolent coach, it does. Can Jack recover it, master it? Of course he can. In this determinedly sunny book, the pure in heart can be counted on to triumph—in the ninth.
Game after game recounted in detail—loving to some, interminable to others. You know which you are.