CHANCE by Steve Shilstone

CHANCE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An effectively sly, pleasantly diverting send-up of vacuous sports-star biographies, courtesy of first-time author Shilstone. The narrator, a self-confessed master of deceit, is attempting to fulfill an offhand commission to tell the life story of Chance Caine 25 years after Chance's retirement (at age 40) from professional baseball, He handles the assignment in episodic fashion, offering commentary from teammates, boyhood friends, and others, as well as from his subject (who has a bit of the poet about him). The unnamed Boswell also includes a full measure of his own antic observations on the diamond game--odd bits and pieces that gradually coalesce, yielding a remarkably clear picture of a likable, even admirable, character. Chance, the son of a bookish professor and an athletic mom, was a natural from the beginning. Turning pro after high school, he was eventually voted into the Hall of Fame for his brilliant play at shortstop over a 22-year span with the Lions (a National League franchise in an unidentified American city). All told, Chance made it to the World Series three times (without ever playing for a winner), batted .402 one glorious season, earned golden gloves galore for near flawless fielding, and was a perennial All Star selection. The press and his adoring fans were always more upset by the Lions' failure to capture a Fall Classic than Chance was. He played for sheer love of the game--but, still, he leaves it without a qualm when his skills decline; moreover, after surviving a murderous appreciation-day assault by a crazed sportswriter, Chance marries a beautiful model who loves him for his soul and gets on with a fulfilling life. At the close, there are some agreeably twisty revelations offering a sense of the continuity that is a hallmark of the summer game. If not yet in a class with Robert Coover, Ring Lardner, or Bernard Malamud, newcomer Shilstone makes a fine, affectionate job of spoofing the national pastime's enduring charms, mores, and myths.

Pub Date: March 14th, 1996
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Breakaway/Lyons & Burford