Tag Archives: Rocket Man

The North Country

Jack Pine: A Northwoods Mystery (Koehler Books, $15.99, 300 pages)

Jack Pine

Hazelgrove Pulls Off Another High Quality Tale In An Unlikely Setting

Jack Pine is an inferior pine that has been relegated to Indian cultivation. When an Indian moves from suspect to witness in a rape, Jack Pine takes off, and Deputy Sheriff Rueger London follows his intuition, defies authority, falls in love, and eventually supports his status as the moral conscience of an entire region, the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota, which border Canada.

The story includes the contemporary themes of man versus environment, second chances, good versus evil, etc., and manages to defy convention or stereotype because author William Hazelgrove has a unique ability to construct characters that the reader cares about.

Rueger must relive his past in order to imagine a future. An unlikely, and, in retrospect, welcome visitor inject life into a man who has been pretending and going through the motions for years. In order to be true to himself and fair to one who has challenged his imagination, Rueger puts his reputation on the line, only to face the indignation of the community and an equally uncertain future.

Jack Pine banner

Hazelgrove is at his best when he takes on the theme of suburban angst, as he does in Rocket Man and Real Santa, but his storytelling translates well to the hinterlands because he is, at heart, a storyteller. Jack Pine is not merely a whodunit or a love story, nor is it subject to the confines of time and/or place. It is about people, and Mr. Hazelgrove is awfully darn good at getting the essence of all of our collective and individual strengths and weaknesses.

Well recommended.

Dave Moyer

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Dave Moyer is the Superintendent of the Elmhurst (Illinois) Community Unit School District 205, and the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.

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Download This Book (For Free)

Mica Highways

Hazelgrove-MICA-HIGHWAYS-Cover-Amazon2

On this site, we’ve provided positive reviews of two novels by William Elliot Hazelgrove, The Pitcher and Rocket Man. Now, if you have a Kindle e-reader, you can download his book Mica Highways for free. This four-star mystery (Amazon) is about a murder in the Old South on April 4, 1968 – the day that Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. One reviewer called it, “A hypnotic tale of terror and temptation.”

Just go to Amazon and download the book for a price of $0 between now and midnight on Saturday, November 23. Enjoy it.

Joseph Arellano

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The Game of Life

The Pitcher: A Novel by William Hazelgrove (Koehlerbooks, $15.95, 241 pages)

The Pitcher (nook book)

Everyone has a dream. Ricky’s is to pitch for the baseball team of the high school that he’ll be attending in the coming year. The Hispanic youth has a great fastball but no control, so the dream appears unlikely to come true. But then he meets The Pitcher, a former major league baseball player who pitched his team to victory in the World Series. The Pitcher is not only gruff, he’s in mourning for his late wife and wants nothing to do with the world.

William Hazelgrove has fashioned a near classic baseball story with a few unexpected elements. Because Ricky is Mexican-American in a predominantly white and prosperous community, he faces discrimination based on his ethnicity and poverty. He’s willing to do almost anything to prove that his athletic skills are good enough, knowing full well that life generally gives you only one shot at success. Can he somehow convince The Pitcher to be his coach and mentor?

This novel is completely unlike Hazelgrove’s previous book, Rocket Man, but it’s engaging and uplifting. It would be a perfect story for a young athlete-to-be who needs inspiration and encouragement. Ricky demonstrates that grit and determination are essential qualities for dreamers.

Well recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the author.

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Harmony: A Review of Rocket Man (the novel)

In June of 1995, Richard Ford released what one source called a “dull, jaded, satirical view of suburban life…”, a novel called Independence Day.   The New York Times’ overly serious review of Independence Day carried the weighty headline, “Afloat in the Turbulence of the American Dream.”

I loved Ford’s earlier (1986) novel, The Sportswriter, but I found Independence Day to be a bit too dry and slow of a read.   So when I saw that the novel Rocket Man also deals with suburban angst, I worried that it might be a long trek through its 377 pages.   This fear was groundless…

From the very first, I was hooked on this story by William (Bill) Elliot Hazelgrove and I made it straight through to page 370 before putting it down for the day.   Hazelgrove smartly starts the tale with some laugh-out-loud humor before settling into the more serious sections.   When it dawns on you that the story has become less amusing, it doesn’t matter – you just want to know what happens next.

I’m not a fan of book or movie reviews that give away the entire story, but a few things should be mentioned about the plot.   The lead character, Dale Hammer, is a former novelist – currently a mortgage broker – who has moved his family from the old, established, city of Oakland, Illinois to the “far west suburb” of Charleston, Illinois.   In one week his life goes from being on automatic pilot (“I feel the surprise of a man who occupies a life he is not familiar with.”) to one in which he faces multiple and substantive challenges.   His life, as Paul Simon, might have sung, is on fire and on the evening news.

The one positive in Hammer’s situation is that he’s been selected (or maybe simply volunteered) to be Rocket Man, the adult who supervises dozens and dozens of scouts on the day they meet in a public park to launch their working rockets.   Hammer is trained for the assignment by his predecessor Dale Heinrich, a man both highly intelligent and so strange that Hammer is unsure “whether to shake (his) hand or call for the boys in the while suits.”

Does Hammer meet and overcome the challenges in his life?   Does he, as a non-conformist, buckle down to succeed in his new role as the Rocket Man?

You’ll have to read the book yourself to find out, but for me the ending came together as smoothly as Elton John’s song Harmony.   I look forward to the next good read from Hazelgrove.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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Rocket Man (a book review)

Rocket_Man_2“It’s just my job five days a week…”   Like the disoriented astronaut in Bernie Taupin and Elton John’s song “Rocket Man,” the forty-plus-year-old mortgage broker Dale Hammer finds himself disoriented in his own suddenly harsh suburban life.   Hammer is a former one-hit novelist who has managed to become materialistically comfortable.   But when he moves his family to a big house in the suburbs of Chicago, the pin is pulled on the grenade that may obliterate his comfortable life.

So, yet another novel about suburban angst?   True, this hardly sounds like a promising premise, but author William (Bill) Hazelgrove is a skilled comedic writer making the first half of Rocket Man a quick read.   While things in his life are falling apart, Hammer has a chance for redemption.   He’s tapped to be the organizer of “Rocket Day” for his son’s troop of sixty Boy Scouts.

In order to succeed in his mission as the appointed Rocket Man Hammer will have to concentrate on some serious science and details while he fights with his homeowner’s association, faces criminal charges, houses his penniless father, and tries to decipher whether his wife is divorcing him or simply having an affair.

How does it end up?   You will need to read this novel to find out; however, this reviewer suggests that you listen to The Who’s Won’t Get Fooled Again when you get to the last half of the last chapter.   Once finished, you may well look forward to ordering the next serio-comic tale from Hazelgrove.

Pantonne Press, $19.95, 378 pages

Note:   Thank you to Pantonne Press for the review copy.

This review was written by Joseph Arellano.   Reprinted courtesy of Sacramento Book Review.

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