Saturday, May 26, 2012

Grisham Hits A Home Run with "Calico Joe"

I do not consider John Grisham to be a great writer.  My literary Pantheon includes Dickens, Dostoevsky, John Irving, Arturo Perez-Reverte and a handful of others; it is a tough major league to break into.  But I do appreciate Grisham's ability to tell a moving and memorable tale.  He does this with aplomb in the little gem that is "Calico Joe."  The novel contains elements that reminded me of Kinsella's "Shoeless Joe," Malamud's "The Natural," and the innocent baseball novels of John Tunis.

The story is told through the eyes and voice of Paul Tracey, son of a journeyman pitcher with the 1970's Mets. Toggling back and forth between 1973 when he was 11 years old, and 2003, Paul weaves together the threads of a Greek tragedy - the beaning of his hero, phenom Joe Castle(Calico Joe), by his father, headhunting old school pitcher, Warren Tracey.  Thirty years after their worlds collided at Shea Stadium, Warren Tracey is dying and a crippled Joe Castle is the groundskeeper the high school fiedd names in his honor in Calico Rock, Arkansas.  Paul  decides to try to engineer a final meeting between these two former major league ball players - who have not spoken to each other since Tracey's fastball ended Castle's career.

The timing of my reading of this book could not have been better.  I finished the book the same night that the current edition of the Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays renewed their long-standing "bean ball war." Is it just part of "old school baseball" or is it a practice that needs to be retired?  Grisham'scharacters  wrestle with that age-old question.  Reading Grishman's novel brought back to me in all of their pathos the thoughts and feelings I had as a young baseball fan when Tony Conigliaro's promising career was ended by a Jack Hamilton fastball to the face.  The story of young Joe Castle is eerily reminiscent of Conigliaro's star-crossed career.

If you love baseball and good storytelling, you will enjoy this book.



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just started reading this today and have not been able to put it down. Growing up a Red Sox fan I remember Tony C and coud not help but see the similiarities.