Guide to Baseball Novels: B

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Bain's grandfather Con Daily was a 19th-century major-leaguer, so this book has baseball bloodlines. Most of the murder plot hinges on standard clubhouse intrigues: jealousy, nepotism, drugs, alcohol, sex, and gambling.

A routine novel, with standard elements of violence, magical-realist irruptions, and Big Game climax. One odd device – an omniscient scouting computer – echoes a theme in a 1963 juvenile by Wilfred McCormick.

Baseball and disability themes are more convicing here than the literary/academic part of the setting; in any case, an interesting new field for the baseball novel.

This is, believe it or not, the fourth first-woman-big-leaguer novel. It's about the third-best: entertaining and light enough, but stuffed with facts, stats, trivia, and superfluous exposition. See also Rothweiler.

The title character, a revolutionary who goes AWOL from the Army as part of a futile plot to overthrow the government, doesn't appear till 2/3 of the way through the book. The novel uses baseball not as setting but as the wiring of Henry Adams's consciousness; he thinks about everything in terms of the game. Wonderful episodes of work and war abound in this inventive novel.

Dramatic interest is subordinated to a lot of exposition about the life of Old Hoss.

Self-conscious and overwritten, with many gratuitous atmospheric set-pieces, this is a magical realist baseball novel gone over the top, with many scenes of grisly violence.

Mixes several layers of research on baseball history with research on the 1864 Red River campaign and on the historical Camp Ford.

An odd mix of tearjerker and surreal mystery. The novel has well-observed passages, but in the end there's just too much going on for belief or interest.

All the mechanism and scaffolding of the novel of ideas shows here, but they are good, humane ideas.

Readable and suspenseful, with a lot of inside-baseball detail. Would you believe that this one comes down to a bases-loaded, ninth-inning 3-2 pitch in a one-run ballgame? Of course you would.

"Plodding" would be a charitable description. Anticipated by Rothweiler; inferior to Gregorich.

Austere, unsentimental look at the scandal, notable for its period language and its recreation of Sullivan as a literate, existentially confused hero. *

Stilted prose and stock characters aside, this yarn develops its own pulpy momentum, at least till the possible plot directions narrow into a twistless bottleneck.

Loosely plotted story based on intensive study of ballplayers' oral histories, still uniquely interesting among baseball novels. Made into a somewhat more glam Hollywood film in 1976. Brashler went on to write a baseball mystery series, with collaborator Reinder Van Til, under the pseudonym Crabbe Evers. *

Modernist style and a use of found photographs that recalls W.G. Sebald accent this fiction by a writer whose other work includes translations of Albanian novelist Ismail Kadare.

A gentle, warmly written historical novel. Havana Heat covers the same territory as The Celebrant, but uses the lower-key approach of Troy Soos. Admirable for its convincing evocation of a period and place; also an interesting look into Deaf culture. *

Criticism: Hye

Lashings of period detail threaten to overwhelm the novel, but it develops a lot of action as it goes along, and by halfway through qualifies for the overused adjective "rollicking." *

Criticism: Carino

Enjoyable sequel, full of action and intrigue.

Half comedy, half sophisticated social observation; very much of its time and (upper) class origins, but very interesting as a commentary on them. *

The kind of novel common in the 1970s and 80s, where nearly every sentence is a wryly-turned, overbaked observation.

Agreeable mix of wrong-man crime fiction and logical puzzle.

Action-packed and full of local and historical color.