Fiction. Ray Adams buys his girlfriend, beautiful Ava Belle, a baseball team for her birthday. She loves dogs and baseball. Ray’s gift is a broken-down semi-pro team in California’s Central Valley, with a 70-year-old Jewish manager who’s been in baseball for 50 years and breaks into Yiddish homilies when the going gets tough. He assembles a rag-tag lineup of sheetrockers, farm laborers, wanna-be big leaguers, and a freak submarine pitcher—19-year-old Billy Collins. The only problem is that Billy has a drunken, abusive father who, when he shows up at the ballpark, causes Billy to fall apart. How to get rid of Bucky Collins becomes a primary goal not just for the team’s sake, but for Billy’s. Rough him up? Pay him off? See that he has an “accident”? With him around, the team and Billy are simply not functional.
Russell Hill is a three-time nominee for the Edgar Allen Poe prize. His books, Lucy Boomer and The Lord God Bird have been optioned for film, and his work has been translated into French, German and Polish. He lives in the San Francisco Bay area, is married, and has three grown children. He is an avid fly fisher and his book, The Search for Sheepheaven Trout has become a “cult classic” among fly fishers.
You can visit his writing at russellhillwriter.wordpress.
Other books by Russell Hill:
Letters from the Mines (poetry)
The Search for Sheepheaven Trout (essays)
The Heeler (short stories)
The Edge of the Earth (originally titled Cold Creek Cash Store)
The Lord God Bird
Tom Hall and the Captain of All These Men of Death
Publishers weekly –
While billed as a mystery, this engaging baseball novel from Edgar-finalist Hill (The Lord God Bird) contains only a whiff of crime. When Ray Adams buys a minor league California team, based in the small town of Knights Landing, for his beautiful girlfriend Ava’s birthday, he renames it the Dog Sox because Ava gave him a pair of socks with pictures of dogs on them. The team manager, Dutch Goltz, who had a short stint as a pro player, finds a diamond in the rough in the form of pitcher Billy Collins, whose eccentric pitching motion renders him unhittable, at least for a few innings. Bolstered by Billy’s arm, the team reaches first place in its league, but the smooth ride hits a few bumps when Billy’s abusive father shows up and causes trouble. More intrigue is generated by another hurler, English teacher Otis Bickford, who makes no secret of his interest in Ava. A simple prose style perfectly complements a moving character study centered on Ray and Ava’s relationship.
Mystery Scene, by Betty Webb –
Speaking of lyrical, remember last year s extraordinary The Lord God Bird, by Russell Hill? Well, Hill s back, and with a big surprise. His astounding The Dog Sox (Caravel/Pleasure Boat, $16.00) proves that the gifted author is as funny as he is poetic and that he loves baseball. Normally I don t drool over books about sports teams, but the Dog Sox, a hapless ball team made up of misfits, had me slavering. As unexpected as it is wondrous, Sox is so lyrical you can actually sing its pages. Set in the farming country of Central California, the Sox are such losers that Ray, their owner, runs the hot dog concession to finance them. The tide turns when pitcher Billy Collins (named after America s former Poet Laureate, quoted in the book) joins the team. Billy has a freak pitch no one can hit, but it only lasts for four innings before his arm wears out. Even worse, Billy is afflicted by a drunken, abusive father who can t be trusted not to stagger onto the field during a game. To solve the interruption situation, Dutch, the team s elderly coach/manager, takes the problem to his synagogue, where two just-as-elderly scholars of the Torah try to figure out a way of getting rid of the father permanently while remaining in good graces with God. The old rascals religious hairsplitting is hilarious: So he should go to a bar and maybe he should have one too many and maybe he should get hit by a car or fall down some stairs, God forbid. As with the best of novels, each character surprises us in his or her own way. Ray is realistic about his ball team, but still dreams of glory. His lover, Ava, is a baseball-loving broad with a ribald mouth. In the end, this story about a team of oddballs struggling through the season is about something other than baseball. It s about dreams, and the unlikely, though not impossible, chance of them coming true. If you re having a bad time, if your car needs a new transmission and your mortgage is upside down, READ THIS BOOK. It ll give you the laughs and the hope you need to keep on keeping on. As Ray points out in one stirring scene, one day you just might make it to the top of the 9th with a 10-run lead.
Logan and Noah Miller, writers of Touching Home –
This novel is a hilarious ride into the heart of washed-up dreamers, delusional heroes, and, oh yeah, a baseball team.