Robert B. Parker was the author of seventy books, including the legendary Spenser detective series, the Jesse Stone series, and the Virgil Cole/Everett Hitch Westerns. Winner of the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award and long considered the undisputed dean of American crime fiction, he died in January 2010.
Set in 1947, Parker's superb new novel imagines what it was like for Jackie Robinson, and more centrally for Robinson's (fictional) bodyguard, to see the color barrier broken in Major League baseball. This isn't Parker's first foray outside the mystery genre, though he remains best known for his Spenser PI series (this year's Bad Business, etc.); in 2001 he dramatized Wyatt Earp in Gunman's Rhapsody, and earlier he excelled with Perchance to Dream, Wilderness and Love and Glory. In an unusual gambit, however, this time he mixes his storytelling with his firsthand reminiscences (in chapters titled "Bobby") of growing up as a devoted Dodgers fan, a move that adds resonance and a sense of wonder to the taut narrative. The fiction, told in the third person, focuses on Joseph Burke, a WWII vet grievously wounded physically and emotionally by combat and its aftermath. Burke is a hired gun who allows himself no feelings, but when he signs on with Dodger owner Branch Rickey to protect Robinson from racist violence during the ballplayer's rookie season, he comes to respect, then love, the proud, controversial player. Burke also falls for Lauren, a self-destructive society girl with mob connections whom he worked for before Robinson, and it's from Lauren's troubles and the threat of violence surrounding Robinson that the novel's hard, smart action arises. Burke is a tough guy, and the narrative not set around baseball fields takes place in the white and black underworlds as Burke plays various gangsters against one another to protect both Lauren and Robinson. Parker, always a clean writer, has never written so spare and tight a book; this should be required reading for all aspiring storytellers. Parker fans will recognize with joy many of the author's lifelong themes (primarily, honor and the redemptive power of love), and in the Burke/Robinson dynamic, echoes of Spenser/Hawk (the PI's black colleague). Here they will treasure the very essence of Parker in a masterful recreation of a turbulent era that's not only a great and gripping crime novel but also one of the most evocative baseball novels ever written. (May 24) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
In this standalone historical from Parker, it is 1947, and the Brooklyn Dodgers have signed Jackie Robinson at first base. While a young Bobby Parker (that is, the author) avidly follows the national pastime, Joseph Burke, a shell-shocked World War II veteran, is working as a bodyguard in New York City. Emotionally stunted, Joseph lives in a world devoid of feeling-until he becomes Robinson's bodyguard. His confrontations with violent bigots as well as his own demons make up the main story line of Parker's baseball homage (besides the author and Jackie Robinson, it features real-life people like Branch Rickey, the Dodgers' then general manager). Bobby's life, family, and love of baseball are separate from that thread but just as compelling. The creator of the popular Spenser series, Parker knows how to tell a story and does his usual masterly job here; it will prove exciting even to those who are indifferent to baseball. Recommended for all libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/03.]-Fred M. Gervat, formerly with Concordia Coll. Lib., Bronxville, NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Praise for Double Play
"A noirish take on the Jackie Robinson
story...engrossing...a refreshing change of pace."--Entertainment
Weekly "Told with lean brilliance...The prose and dialogue are
clipped, the images cold and dark as anything in 1940s noir, and
yet between the lines beats a pulse of heart and hope. Finding out
if they exist to be nurtured or snuffed is one reason these pages
turn so quickly."--New York Daily News "Gracefully written...Parker
weaves an engaging, fast-paced tale."--USA Today "Honest and
vivid."--Sports Illustrated "Intelligent crime fiction...A crisp
and insistent story line that gets you to the finish in a hurry.
Mr. Parker's tight prose style makes Hemingway seem almost blabby
by comparison. It will probably help reinforce Mr. Parker's
reputation as one of the best crime fiction writers around. And
give lots of readers a few hours of pleasure."--The Washington
"Robert B. Parker hits a grand slam with his approach to the story of Jackie Robinson. This is a beautiful book, an important novel that helps us remember what it was like for those who fought the good fight in World War II, what racism was like in the bad old days, and a tale of the healing of a broken heart. The writing is like engraving the highest quality crystal; Parker guides the light to show us his levels of meaning."--The Miami Herald "Superb...Parker, always a clean writer, has never written so spare and tight a book; this should be required reading for all aspiring storytellers. Parker fans will recognize with joy many of the author's lifelong themes (primarily, honor and the redemptive power of love), and in the Burke/Robinson dynamic, echoes of Spenser/Hawk (the PI's black colleague). Here they will treasure the very essence of Parker in a masterful recreation of a turbulent era that's not only a great and gripping crime novel but also one of the most evocative baseball novels ever written."--Publishers Weekly