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The late Ring Lardner might just be reading now over our shoulders, for Kluger’s epistolary novel of 1940s Brooklyn baseball is right up his genre. And if he were reading it, Lardner would likely have these admiring words to say about Kluger’s creation of the character of New York Giants third baseman Charlie Banks, who is a pen pal of the very young Brooklynite Joey Margolis: —So you mussle in on my turf, the baseball novel of letters, when you know it’s my ballpark. But I’m not bitter just because you create a nice guy in Charlie Banks, while Jack Keefe in my novel You Know Me, Al is a braggart and egotist who the reader despairs of. And Chas. Banks— loudmouth correspondent Joey Margolis is a little heart-tugger, too. Okay, I pretty much play on one string throughout, while you hit some bigger chords, like war and the Depression and that chowderhead FDR. Well, back in 1915 when my novel was wrote, I didn’t have any world wars to wring my readers— hearts with. You give a swell sense of Brooklyn in the late thirties and after, and I very much enjoy the cards sent between Joey, better known as The Shadow, and his upstairs neighbor Craig Nakamura. I suppose what stands out is your variety in a story told entirely through letters, postcards, report cards, baseball scorecards, Winchell columns, letters from FDR, and big written sighs of disappointment from Joey’s rabbi and his disgusted homeroom teacher, with no author seemingly on hand. And I—ll admit it’s clever how you get the reader to empathize with this jocko 3rd baseman Joey idolizes.— And Lardner would have reason to conclude: —It hurts, but I got to say you write good and do well in the tears department. I feel honored by having inspired you. The hardest part is over, fella, aside from the reviews.—

Pub Date: June 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-380-97645-5
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1998