Eularee Smith
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Entries in John Grisham (2)


Calico Joe

Calico Joe

John Grisham

Doubleday, New York

Hardcover, paperback, Kindle, audio


Dust off the bleacher seat, buy some peanuts and crackerjacks and prepare to enjoy the game of baseball through the eyes of a master storyteller. Since I am life long fan and played catcher in my younger years with better knees, I am perhaps more critical of baseball novels than most. If you don't know your stuff, can't walk the walk or talk the talk, I'll take my ball and glove and go home. Grisham captures not only the spirit of the game but has all the players he needs to color the pages with the history of the game. 

I repeatedly had to refer to the dust jacket to remind myself the story was indeed fiction. Inspired by the true story of Ray Chapman, the only professional player who was killed by a pitch, the backdrop for the story is baseball in the 70's, a very mean and lean time to play the game. The teams, the Cubs and the Mets. The players, Tony La Russa, famous for his pitching retailiation, Yogi Berra, Dutch Patton, Johnny Bench, Tom Seaver, Billy Williams, Ron Santo, Willy Mays, Hank Aaron, Catfish Hunter, and Joe Castle. Castle, a young rookie gets beaned by Warren Tracey, a mean drunk but phenomenal fast ball pitcher, who played old school rules, the code. Pitchers used the bean ball to keep batters from crowding the plate, for retribution for taking one out of the park, or even to send a warning to the remaining line-up. In this case, Tracey, was looking to take the young and rising star Joe Castle, out of the game.

The story, although peppered with baseball anecdotes and a few loosely used statistics, was really about a young boy, Paul Tracey and his father, Warren. Tracey's relationship with his alcoholic father was filled with abuse. Paul despises his father for taking away the career of his favorite player, his hero, Joe Castle. As the boy becomes a man, he can't let go of the fact that his father, let go from the bigs, disgraced, has never admitted to the wrong doing. He becomes obsesessed with wanting to somehow right the wrong he saw that afternoon from the stands. He knew the intent of his father the moment the ball left his father's hand and wants the world to know it was not a runaway ball as his father claimed. 

The coming together of father and son buffets the story until the end when his father is dying and it is now or never to bring about the reunion of the two fated players. Grisham is a remarkable wordsmith and the anquish of both father and son, along with the redemptive angle of the story, bring a story filled with the human condition sliding into home plate.

A great story on its own, but if you are lover of the game, you get a double header. Read and enjoy. Remember a time when the bean ball was a tool of the mound and the players were legends without steroids.




The Racketeer

The Racketeer

John Grisham


$28.95 Hardbound, available in e-book format

I inherited this book in a way. My Dad was a huge John Grisham fan and always pre-ordered his books. His library has a whole section of John Grisham books. The book arrived after my Dad passed away. I think he would have liked this one.

If you are a Grisham fan, you know that his novels typically come from a lawyer's point of view. The story takes an odd twist as the lawyer finds himself on the wrong side of the gavel and faces many years in prison for his lack of better judgement. When a federal judge is murdered, Malcolm Bannister decides it is time to play the ace up his sleeve and informs the FBI that he knows who the killer is but wants his freedom in exchange. 

The story takes us through the intricacies of witness protection, the mob and a variety of less than savory characters along the way. Grisham is a master of character and plot twists. There were so many that I wasn't sure who to believe or who to trust before the final twist was revealed. I must admit that Grisham played all his cards close to the vest, and had this reader flipping the pages to find out not only who killed the judge but Bannister's role in the deception. 

The author's note at the end of the book claim the book is a work of fiction with almost nothing based in reality. Grisham says research was not a priority and long paragraphs of fiction were used to avoid fact finding. I tip my hat to the writer who can pull off such a work of fiction that keeps one turning the page to find out what happens next, believing every word must have come from some basis in truth to seem so real.

Dad, this one belongs on the shelf with the rest of the Grisham library. Thanks for ordering it.