Guide to Baseball Novels: H

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Simply not to my taste (it's slow and plotless), but almost instantly the best-selling and best-regarded baseball novel ever.

A funny, moving poetic novel. Ultimately a mystery story in which the mystery is simply mortality itself. Filmed twice, first for television and later as a feature film.

Criticism: McGimpsey, Morris, Sullivan, Westbrook

An intermittently funny comic afterthought to the Wiggen series, this novel depends too much on the melodrama of Henry's sexual irresistibility.

Overlong and full of details that come to seem, in retrospect, only the scaffolding for Bang the Drum Slowly, its greater sequel that constantly refers back to it. The Southpaw establishes the narrating voice of Henry Wiggen and is a considerable novel in its own right, a self-conscious and deliberately literary variation on sport story archetypes. Compare The Team, Frank O'Rourke's 1949 novel, for much of the method and structure of The Southpaw without Harris's verbal gift.

Criticism: Bishop, Sullivan

A rueful and inexpressive story, the most deliberately aestheticist of the Wiggen novels. Though it is a vignette, almost an afterthought to Bang the Drum Slowly, it has considerable power.

This is a rarity in baseball literature: a team-of-misfits novel that actually develops dozens of deeply observed, keenly written characters. One of the most politically engaged of baseball novels, The Dixie Association develops a broad panorama of race, class, and economics in the South--and includes several Hispanic and Native American characters in key roles without falling back on stereotype. Deserves mention for perhaps the cleverest range of character names in the genre.

Criticism: Carvill

Aggressively raunchy novel features a laugh here and there but ultimately becomes too serious for its own good. Filmed in 1987 for cable TV.

One has to be very eager to read about the sexual angst of middle-aged men to enjoy this novel. One should note, however, that it is highly regarded in the criticism on baseball fiction.

Criticism: Candelaria

As inoffensive as a novel can hope to be with such a premise, this book is a low-key exercise in Southern dialect humor.

A familiar idea (though not perhaps the "buys his girlfriend" part): several stock characters are here, including the gnomic old manager, the rough-diamond pitching prospect, the philosophical (and amorous) veteran, the kid ballplayers with more exuberance than brains. But the whole is concisely told, with humor, raunch, self-consciousness, and optimism: a superior use of baseball in fiction.

Whodunit spiced with lots of 1940s New York detail. A "prequel" to The Plot to Kill Jackie Robinson.

See also Honig's juvenile fiction.

Well-observed suspense novel, drawing from Honig's sure sense of the historical period. For more mayhem directed at Robinson, see Parker.

A good coming-of-age novel, with sharply observed baseball detail; only the novel's ending, with a pile-up of melodramatic incidents, is a flaw here.

Hard-boiler of the "wrong-man" school, featuring baseball mostly in the central MacGuffin, a Babe Ruth bat.

Good of its type, a stylized and stylish crime novel. See my review at lection. The 2005 sequel Six Bad Things deliberately suppresses possible baseball elements.

A lively, multiple-plot novel. Entertaining, though derivative from Dyja and especially from Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain.