Tag Archives: St. Louis

Summer of ’68

Summer of ’68: The Season That Changed Baseball – and America – Forever by Tim Wendel (Da Capo, $25.00, 288 pages)

“…in 1968, we of the pitching profession came as close to perfect as we’ve ever come in modern times.”   Bob Gibson

There’s a reason the phrase “inside baseball” has come to be used.   And the phrase represents the problems with trying to determine who will want to read the rather awkwardly titled Summer of ’68: The Season that Changed Baseball – and America – Forever by Tim Wendel.   If you’re a baseball fanatic, you probably already know about every detail, every fact in this account of the 1968 World Series.   If you’re not, you won’t be able to relate to the names that pop up on every page – many of the details seem to pile on without context.

And then there’s the problem with the sub-title.   Yes, there were assassinations and riots that year that horribly marred the country’s history, but this reader felt that Wendel never adequately made the connection between the socio-political events and the sport covered here.   The story of Curt Flood of the St. Louis Cardinals will spark an interest for some – but, again, if you’re not already a deep-in-the-weeds baseball fan, this retelling will not mean much.

Wendel also tries a bit too hard to make the case that Bob Gibson may have been the best pitcher ever – a case that won’t convince fans of Sandy Koufax and others.   Summer of ’68 is sometimes interesting, but more often it’s just passable reading.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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Runnin’ Down a Dream

33 Days:  Touring in a Van.   Sleeping on Floors.   Chasing a Dream.   by Bill See (Lulu; available as a Kindle and Nook Book download)

Bill See’s account of a band on the run has its moments but…  If L.A.’s Divine Weeks was chosen as one of the best bands in the mega city by the hallowed Los Angeles Times in 1987, one has to wonder why its four members (George, Bill, Raj and Dave) decided they needed to make a tour of the Pacific Northwest, Canada and the mid-west to southern United States to prove their worth.   If you believe See’s words, it was not for a lack of ego:  “Sometimes you can tell the crowd wants it…  you have to understand something.   We really do believe we’re operating on a totally different plane than other bands…  we’re completely full of ourselves…”

Well, you can see videos of Divine Weeks on You Tube and judge for yourself.   To my eyes and ears, this was a decent band for the time (the late 80s), but nothing special – not great nor horrible, and on a par with what you’d see in a typical Sacramento club during this era.   Was Divine Weeks on the same plane as, say, Jane’s Addiction?   Absolutely not.   (Personal disclosure:  I was not a fan of Jane’s music, but their musicianship was beyond question.)

What 33 Days does offer is a glimpse of what life is like on the road for a struggling traveling band.   In itself that’s an interesting tale, but See detracts from it by spending a bit more time than is necessary telling us about his off-and-on relationship with quasi-girlfriend Mary.   It proves to be both distracting and tiring.

The best moment in the narrative is when See explains, early on, the power of music.   “Ever since I’ve known music, I’ve felt that my life could be lifted up by it.”   This is admirable but the egocentric prospective winds up making this a band biography that is less than the sum of its parts.   This reader came to feel as if only truly got to know two members of the band – the Paul McCartney-like Bill and the George Harrison-like Raj.   It felt, in the end, as if something was missing.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the author.

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Tell The Truth

Tell No Lies by Julie Compton

There’s a lot of buzz going around about Julie Compton’s new novel Rescuing Olivia, which will be released next month.   So we decided to go back and read Compton’s first book, Tell No Lies, published in mid-2008.   Lies is an excellent, excellent criminal justice system and family drama set in St. Louis.   The main character, Jack Hilliard, is an assistant district attorney who’s happily married; his wife is an adjunct college professor and they have two boys.   Life appears to be good for the family except that Hilliard is unfulfilled.

Suddenly everything changes at once for Jack…  Earl, the District Attorney for the City of St. Louis decides to give up his office to earn some pre-retirement riches at a prominent private law firm.   Although Jack is designated by Earl to be his successor, Jack struggles with the decision to run for the office.   Doing so will mean that Jack will need to hide or obfuscate his personal anti-death penalty views at a time when the local public is seeking blood.

Both Jack and his understanding wife Claire realize that moving from being an ADA to being the DA will turn their lives upside down…  But this is a small tremor compared to the coming earthquake that will change the ground under Jack and Claire – leaving them virtually foundation-less.   For years Jack has had a huge crush (“Can you be in love with two women at the same time?”) on the exotic Jenny Dodson, a mixed-blood civil practice attorney who turns men’s heads whenever she moves.   Jenny, in return, loves Jack but isn’t sure she wants to participate in destroying his happy marriage and contented family.

Against his better interests, Jack decides to involve Jenny as an officer in his campaign for DA which means he’ll regularly be in her company.   Jack initially believes that he can control his feelings for Jenny, but then comes to see that she’s far more than a distraction.   Jack, in fact, may love her to destruction.   Jack eventually becomes the DA who may be Jenny’s only hope when she’s charged with the murder of one of her clients.   But she had an alibi the night of the murder – one that involves Jack.   Will Jack save his marriage or Jenny?

This fantastic set-up only gets better and better and the reader will rush to get through the book, even at the cost of some sleep.   There never seems to be a wrong note in the story, and the fact that some major public figures have recently made a mess of their lives only adds credibility to this morality tale.   As with Tiger Woods, Jack comes to find that his life “is on fire and on the evening news.”   (Thank you, Paul Simon.)

Jack Hilliard is a person well liked and loved, but he’s often told that his flaw is that he feels that he must get what he wants in life.   This is a story about the high price to be paid for getting what you want.   The devil must be paid.

Compton is a former federal agency trial attorney and the language of the criminal justice professionals in Lies comes off as true in tone.   This is more of a gritty Prince of the City than homogenized Law and Order.   Tell No Lies was such an impressive début for Compton that I am quite eager to get to Rescuing Olivia.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the author.  

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Coming Up Next…

A review of Tell No Lies by Julie Compton.

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