© 2012 John Grisham
It’s not every day that dear old dad tries to murder your childhood hero, but such a thing happened to Paul Tracy. His dad was Warren Tracy, an abusive drunk playing for the Mets and rapidly pitching himself out of a job. His hero? Joe Castle, from Calico Rock, Arkansas, a man who had never struck out. A phenomenon behind the plate, “Calico Joe” was the greatest rookie to play the game…until the young, legendary hitter met the angry, bitter pitcher who wanted to teach the young squirt some manners. Hence, violence. What happened between the two ruined both of their careers and drove Paul to avoid America’s game for the next thirty years. But now, with Warren on his deathbed, Paul hopes to effect his reclamation…by arranging a meeting between the two aging players.
John Grisham has dabbled in sports books before, to some success; inevitably for a southern writer, previous forays into the athletic fields were football books. Here he writes on the baseball diamond, and has produced in Calico Joe a short and syrupy sweet novel heavy on character drama rather than plot twists. I read it just after Christmas, and its theme of redemption and forgiveness fit the mood; this is a fast-flying tale that’s more of a extended short story than a meaty novel.