A raucous, off-kilter, and sometimes steamy tale about personal triumphs on and off the basketball court.

READ REVIEW

UNDER A BASKETBALL MOON

A NOVEL

A sequel explores love, sex, and basketball.

This new novel from Ashe (Toogoodoo Dreaming, 2014) continues the story of Edward “Skip” Walker, an African-American born and raised in the South Carolina low country and the first person to coach a Historically Black College or University in the NCAA Final Four. In this tale, Skip narrates his own story and stresses to readers that he is only half of a winning personal team. His wife, Veronica Louise Browning Walker, is a major character here, a prominent arbitration attorney who inspires some of the tale’s headiest stylistic riffs: “My wife loves nothing more than weaving around town at high speed making deals a cellphone tucked between her ear and a shoulder a laptop nearby probably plugged into the onboard computer in expensive little hard to drive sports cars when taking care of business.” The book also features Skip’s children, including his wards Romulus and Remus, and photo illustrations by the author. In addition, there’s a pronounced erotic thread running throughout the narrative when dealing with the husband and wife at the center of things. (Skip and Veronica are, suffice to say, very happily married.) But the most powerful and successfully executed parts of the story revolve around the author’s gritty, weirdly eloquent, and unfailingly thrilling depictions of the world of big-time college basketball—the coaches and athletic directors, the money people and fans, and especially the players. Although occasionally sloppy (there are some distracting typos throughout, including “EXORSIST” and “GODESS”), the narrative is thick with jazzy dialogue and sparkling character descriptions. Skip varies the sports talk with generous and often very funny digressions about his extended circle of family and friends. And all along, there’s the dream of victory, which is rendered with excitement but no sentimentality. “It’s an immensely beautiful and magical thing to sit back and watch your future unfold right before your eyes,” Skip reflects at one point. Readers should certainly feel that kind of momentum in these pages.

A raucous, off-kilter, and sometimes steamy tale about personal triumphs on and off the basketball court.

Pub Date: April 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5423-6742-4

Page Count: 356

Publisher: Our Lady on the Hill Publishing Company

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2018

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One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.

BACK FROM THE DEAD

A basketball legend reflects on his life in the game and a life lived in the “nightmare of endlessly repetitive and constant pain, agony, and guilt.”

Walton (Nothing but Net, 1994, etc.) begins this memoir on the floor—literally: “I have been living on the floor for most of the last two and a half years, unable to move.” In 2008, he suffered a catastrophic spinal collapse. “My spine will no longer hold me,” he writes. Thirty-seven orthopedic injuries, stemming from the fact that he had malformed feet, led to an endless string of stress fractures. As he notes, Walton is “the most injured athlete in the history of sports.” Over the years, he had ground his lower extremities “down to dust.” Walton’s memoir is two interwoven stories. The first is about his lifelong love of basketball, the second, his lifelong battle with injuries and pain. He had his first operation when he was 14, for a knee hurt in a basketball game. As he chronicles his distinguished career in the game, from high school to college to the NBA, he punctuates that story with a parallel one that chronicles at each juncture the injuries he suffered and overcame until he could no longer play, eventually turning to a successful broadcasting career (which helped his stuttering problem). Thanks to successful experimental spinal fusion surgery, he’s now pain-free. And then there’s the music he loves, especially the Grateful Dead’s; it accompanies both stories like a soundtrack playing off in the distance. Walton tends to get long-winded at times, but that won’t be news to anyone who watches his broadcasts, and those who have been afflicted with lifelong injuries will find the book uplifting and inspirational. Basketball fans will relish Walton’s acumen and insights into the game as well as his stories about players, coaches (especially John Wooden), and games, all told in Walton’s fervent, witty style.

One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.

Pub Date: March 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4767-1686-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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Effectively sobering. Suffice it to say that Pop Warner parents will want to armor their kids from head to toe upon reading...

CONCUSSION

A maddening, well-constructed tale of medical discovery and corporate coverup, set in morgues, laboratories, courtrooms, and football fields.

Nigeria-born Bennet Omalu is perhaps an unlikely hero, a medical doctor board-certified in four areas of pathology, “anatomic, clinical, forensic, and neuropathology,” and a well-rounded specialist in death. When his boss, celebrity examiner Cyril Wecht (“in the autopsy business, Wecht was a rock star”), got into trouble for various specimens of publicity-hound overreach, Omalu was there to offer patient, stoical support. The student did not surpass the teacher in flashiness, but Omalu was a rock star all his own in studying the brain to determine a cause of death. Laskas’ (Creative Writing/Univ. of Pittsburgh; Hidden America, 2012, etc.) main topic is the horrific injuries wrought to the brains and bodies of football players on the field. Omalu’s study of the unfortunate brain of Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster, who died in 2002 at 50 of a supposed heart attack, brought new attention to the trauma of concussion. Laskas trades in sportwriter-ese, all staccato delivery full of tough guyisms and sports clichés: “He had played for fifteen seasons, a warrior’s warrior; he played in more games—two hundred twenty—than any other player in Steelers history. Undersized, tough, a big, burly white guy—a Pittsburgh kind of guy—the heart of the best team in history.” A little of that goes a long way, but Laskas, a Pittsburgher who first wrote of Omalu and his studies in a story in GQ, does sturdy work in keeping up with a grim story that the NFL most definitely did not want to see aired—not in Omalu’s professional publications in medical journals, nor, reportedly, on the big screen in the Will Smith vehicle based on this book.

Effectively sobering. Suffice it to say that Pop Warner parents will want to armor their kids from head to toe upon reading it.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8757-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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