Guide to Baseball Novels: S

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Generous period detail, boldly-drawn characters, and interlocking romantic triangles liven this recreation of a salty era of baseball history.

Intense, difficult, oblique, and enigmatic graphic-novel bio of Clemente, stressing his energy and his heroism. Read more at lection.

That rare Brooklyn-in-the-1940s novel where the Dodgers count for nothing. A convincing story of fandom and family, with an intriguing historical context, and distinctive aesthetic elements (such as the use of found photographs as illustrations). Read about The Powers at lection.

Brisk readable fare with no surprises; builds predictably toward a Big Game where our hero will get the decisive at-bat. Has some of the same themes that appear in Graham's Babe Ruth Caught in a Snowstorm, notably the idea of a team of oddballs built from scratch by a overweening owner; but the themes are turned toward melodrama rather than surrealism.

The "what-if" theme of Negro Leaguers taking the field alongside their Jim-Crow-era white counterparts has been popular in a number of counterfactual "historical" novels in recent years, including Rutkoff and King.

Strongly-written realistic fiction that sidesteps formula and sentimentality. The central structural device – a gap of 32 years halfway through the narrative – almost breaks the book into a novella and its sequel.

Strictly by-the-numbers mystery, with much distracting and unrealistic inside-baseball detail.

Very weak in its baseball details, this novel was unpublished during Shaara's lifetime. It uses a stream-of-consciousness technique. Filmed without success in 1999.

A deeply androcentric novel, deftly told and offering many insights into how sport forms personality.

Criticism: Solomon.

Sort of a Great-American-Novel lite.

Mix in an elder brother killed in Korea, a failed marriage, and a crusty old manager who dies in the dugout, and you have a lot of stock elements to work with; but they are agreeably assembled. Slattery also writes under the pen name Edward Bear.

A smutty book from the days when it was thought clever to stay just on the safe side of blue material. Notable for its self-congratulatory bad taste. Filmed in 1951 with Ray Milland (the film is not available on video). See also similar stories about animals by McIlroy and Schramm.

Criticism: Ardolino.

In the momentous summer of '69, giving lots of opportunity for references to the moon landing, Vietnam, Woodstock, &c.

The murder-mystery plot lacks forward momentum at times, but the historical baseball detail is interesting enough to keep readers pleasantly engaged. This novel is the first in a successful series of mysteries with old-timey baseball settings.

For an interleaved short story that has Mickey investigating a killing while on the 1913 Beaumont Oilers, see Soos's "Pick-off Play" (2001).

This sequel to Murder at Fenway Park is better for an ambiance that mixes baseball and the movies than for its mild mystery plot. Has some nice vignettes of baseball action, as Mickey does his best to please manager John McGraw.

Make a note--if you get to the big leagues, you do not want to room with Mickey Rawlings. This is the third in the series of baseball mysteries that finds the journeyman utility player in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Nicely wrought novel that takes an oblique approach to the storied 1920 baseball season. Soos works in about every possible aspect of the year's current events, and it's an interesting mix.

Soos's Mickey Rawlings novels present a rare case of a series getting better as it goes on; this one has a nice twist and an interesting sense of what the history of the old Red Stockings might have looked like to contemporaries of the Black Sox. Soos acknowledges a debt to Brock in his preface.

Intriguing historical fiction about segregation times. There's still plenty of baseball, too; but the plot device of having Mickey suspended by Judge Landis so he can stay home and fight crime is getting to be overused …

Mix of hard-boiled and 1970s-zany styles.

Written in single-phrase paragraphs.

Like this.

What some people won't do for an MLB franchise . . . despite its rather far-fetched premise, this South Florida hard-boiler has attractive characters (not least a profane hit-man). Baseball is less a topic than a pervasive background to the action.

A mystery plot, but not a mystery tone, hero, or ending. And it's aggressively subtitled "A Novel," as if to say that this is serious fiction we have here, not just a crime thriller. Deserves some credit for trying.

Better-than-decent lightly-boiled mystery.

Splendidly detailed historical fiction, which can seem realer than non-fiction sometimes. Ultimately the lack of real plot and the stylized language of the narratives can wear on the reader, but the book is very intriguing.

Hokey proto-graphic-novel with a cover designed to look like the wrapper of an ancient papyrus manuscript; the central fold-out illustration is Opening Day translated into the age of the Pharaohs. A legend indicates that "Kimanli" (an avatar of President McKinley, perhaps) is ready to throw out the first pitch. A copy of this curiosity is on display in the Brooklyn Museum.

Acclaimed "neo-noir," though the prose is not taut enough for my taste.

Outstanding graphic fiction, a beautifully rendered, off-beat story.

Succeeds by anchoring itself in sober realism, avoiding feel-good resolutions. Conveys the power of sport to establish the ideal of a level playing field that is in practice denied to the central characters in their economic and political lives.