Tag Archives: Batman

Sea of Madness

Baseball Dads

Baseball Dads: Sex. Drugs. Murder. Children’s Baseball. by Matthew S. Hiley (Greenleaf Book Group Press, $15.99, 320 pages)

“Holy Travel Ball, Batman”

What do you do when you live in an affluent suburb, your kid is a talented baseball player but ends up playing on a team with a “daddy ball” coach, and your wife is sleeping with half the males in the state of Texas? Why, the answer is obvious. You spend 90% of your waking hours high as a kite, orchestrating a killing spree, have sex constantly, assume you can get away with it because you are a superhero, win over the cops, and – at the same time – get the reader to root for you because every other character in the novel is even more reprehensible than you.

At least that is Dwayne Devero’s solution in Matthew S. Hiley’s masterpiece Baseball Dads.

Every page gets more absurd than the last until just when you think it can’t get any more ridiculous, it does. If you have to wear glasses to read, as I do, good luck. It is hard to imagine when you are crying your eyes out with laughter. Baseball Dads is Family Guy on steroids.

It is a farce, certainly. But it is extremely well-written. And, it is so far out there that one is forced to reflect on the moral negativity of egocentric lives without realizing that Hiley is holding the mirror up to us all – until it’s not as funny anymore when the realization comes that that is exactly what he is doing.

Baseball Dads back cover

The Real Housewives of Fort Worth, or the reality of your own suburban backyard, your attitude about your kid’s participation in organized sport, and the absolute certainty that he or she is surely on the cusp of a college Division I scholarship – before they’ve even reached puberty? Well, you will have to decide for yourself.

Priceless.

Highly recommended.

Dave Moyer

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Dave Moyer is an education administrator and the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel about love, baseball, and Bob Dylan.

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A Numbers Game

Think of a Number by John Verdon (Crown, July 2010, 432 pages)

“On the one hand, there was the logic of the law, the science of criminology, the processes of adjudication.   On the other, there was pain, murderous rage, death.”

John Verdon, a former advertising firm executive in Manhattan, has produced a brilliant debut novel that offers a cynical and skeptical look at the modern criminal justice system.   In Verdon’s words, “…the justice system is a cage that can no more keep the devil contained than a weather vane can stop the wind.”   If one read this novel with no knowledge of the writer’s background, one would guess that he is a retired policeman or prosecutor.   It is quite hard to believe that Verdon has no personal knowledge of the bleak and challenging world that he writes about so expertly in this work.

In Think of a Number, retired Detective David Gurney and his wife Madeleine live in the hills of Delaware County.   She is the smarter of the two, although he is considered to be the most brilliant crime solver who ever worked for the New York City Police Department.   Gurney is so legendary that his adult son says to him, “Mass murderers don’t have a chance against you.   You’re like Batman.”

But Gurney may have met his match when he’s asked by the county district attorney to serve as a special investigator on a serial killer case.   The killer seems to do the impossible.   First, he sends his intended victim a message asking him to think of a number, any number at all.   Once they think of the number they are instructed to open a sealed envelope; this envelope contains the very number they thought of written in ink.   As if this is not amazing and frightening enough, the killer subsequently calls his intended victim and asks him to whisper another number into the phone.   After he does so, he is instructed to go to his mailbox.   There he retrieves a sealed envelope with the very number he just whispered typed onto a  page that was in the envelope.

Gurney is fortunate in that he’s ably assisted by Madeleine who often sees things he’s missed.   But no one can figure out how the serial murderer performs his numbers tricks, or how to capture him.   In order to solve the puzzles, Gurney is going to have to consider making himself a target of the killer.   Gurney’s logic and research tells him that the serial killer is a control freak, one who kills victims in different states (like Ted Bundy) but operates according to a strict plan.

Gurney must come up with a theory as to what connects these male victims – who seem to have no apparent connection – in order to figure out why they were killed.   Once he does so, he begins to formulate a plan that will put him face to face with a madman genius.   (The reader, quite fortunately, will not come even close to predicting what’s ahead.)

Think of a Number is a fast-moving, cinematic-style thriller.   It is easy to see this novel being made into a film.   At heart, it’s an old-fashioned morality play in which a retired white-hat wearing man must come out of retirement to battle with an all too clever mean-hearted outlaw.   Detective Gurney engages the enemy – a modern devil – while understanding that in the gritty field of criminal justice there are no final victories.

This is an impressively written and engaging story.   One is advised to refrain from starting it without having cleared a number of hours on one’s schedule; otherwise, hours of sleep will be lost.   Once finished, you will no doubt begin – as this reader has – to count the months until Mr. Verdon delivers his next very satisfying thriller.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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Seeing Stars

The thing about Hollywood is it makes you doubt yourself – your identity, your judgment, you motivation, your parenting…

Ruth Rabinowitz had a waking nightmare that she had hit a transvestite crossing Highland at Hollywood Boulevard.   In her mind the transvestite would be lying in the crosswalk surrounded by Shreks and Dorothys and Princess Fionas; Batman would call 911 while Japanese tourists took pictures of the fallen one with their cell phones.   The transvestite would be fine, of course – it was a waking nightmare – and when s/he was set upright on his/her extremely tall platform shoes, s/he would look down on Ruth from six feet up and say kindly, Go ahead, honey – you cry if you want to.   Ruth would break down right there, and the transvestite would take her gently in his/her arms – and his/her skin would be wonderfully silky and toned from hours at the gym – and smooth her hair from her face while she wept.

That’s how much pressure she was under.

Driving into Hollywood was always harrowing, and though she and her thirteen-year-old daughter, Bethany, had been in Los Angeles for only three weeks, she had already learned that the smoothness of the trip to a casting studio was inversely proportionate to the importance of the audition.   Right now it was three o’clock, Bethany’s callback time had been two forty-five, and they were stuck in choking traffic on Highland near Santa Monica.

Admittedly, some of their tardiness – all right, most of it – was Ruth’s fault.   She had a tendency, even under routine circumstances, to dither.   She’d changed clothes twice before they’d left, even though no one would care or even notice what she was wearing.   She’d checked and rechecked an e-mail in which Mimi Roberts, Bethany’s manager, had forwarded the callback’s time and location.   She’d printed out, misplaced, reprinted, and then found the original copy of the MapQuest directions she’d pulled up – even though they’d driven to the same casting studio just yesterday.   Now she heard the same maddening refrain looping endlessly inside her head:  You should have left sooner, you should have left sooner, you should have left sooner.   Her blood pressure was so high she could feel her pulse in her feet.   “I just can’t believe there’s this much traffic,” she said.

“Mom,” Bethany said with newfound world-weariness.   “This is LA.”

“Well, you can certainly see why it’s the birthplace of road rage.”   They moved up a couple of car lengths and then stopped, still at least eight cars short of the intersection.   Beside them a young man in a BMW cursed energetically into his Bluetooth…

This is an excerpt from the opening of Seeing Stars: A Novel by Diane Coplin Hammond.   This entertaining and charming book will be reviewed in the near future on this site.   Seeing Stars was released by Harper on March 23, 2010.   This trade paperback sells for $13.99, and is available as a Kindle Edition download for $9.99.

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