Pickoff, the long-overdue follow-up novel to Dead Ball, is definitely still in the works. Once it's out, I believe you're going to agree it was well worth the wait.
My two prior baseball works, Over the Right Field Wall and Dead Ball, having been available a number of months now, readers and promoters have been urging me to complete and release additional titles in the historical baseball series. Believe me, nobody's more eager than I am for the completion and publication of the third book in the series. While I'm loving working on it, I'm antsy to wrap it up and get it into your hands.
So How Is Pickoff Going to Compare to the Previous Two Baseball-Themed Novels?
Over the Right Field Wall is set in 1891, and Dead Ball takes place from 1912 to 1914. The two are standalone stories with almost no overlap, in terms of characters and plot.
Pickoff, too, brings the reader a fresh cast of actors and another distinct story with a historical baseball backdrop. In Pickoff, we leap forward to 1927, the height of the Roaring Twenties. It's the year the Yankees' "Murderers' Row--Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, Bob Meusel, and Earle Combs--lead their team to 110 regular-season wins and a sweep of the Pirates in the World Series.
Blissfully unaware that they'll soon enough be struggling through the Great Depression, Americans in the 1920s are generally in high spirits (Prohibition notwithstanding). Household electricity, washing machines, refrigerators, and telephones are changing daily routines. The automobile, too, is bringing about a dramatic transformation of American life.
This is the context in which we meet Joe Rath, catcher for the fictional Baltimore Beacons, a National League ball club. Joe has only recently become a father, and his wife, Mena, is becoming increasingly discontent with the amount of time he spends on the road each season.
What's more, keen to mimic the success of the Yankees, both on the playing field and at the ticket window, the Beacons have just picked up a new homerun-belting star, Frank Walsh. Guess what position Walsh plays. You got it--catcher. Which means our hero now finds himself riding the pine.
Anxious to reestablish himself as an everyday starter--he certainly has the talent to do so--and mollify Mena's discontentment, Joe is out to showcase his baseball prowess every chance he gets, particularly in front of decision makers from other major league teams.
While on a long road trip through Chicago, St. Louis, and Cincinnati, a few of Joe's teammates talk him into visiting a couple of speakeasies and attending an upscale party with them. At first indifferent regarding the nightlife they seem to enjoy so much, Joe stumbles into friendship with a young, alluring, and talented singer, Amie Dawes. Though the girl quickly has him mesmerized, he remains aware of the temptation she poses, especially considering how contrary Mena has been of late.
Just as he determines to steer clear of Amie and to ask the Beacons to trade him to another ball club, Joe discovers Amie is in deep trouble. A bigtime Chicago mobster, Gyp Scaletta, has her trapped in an extremely unenviable situation. Joe makes a snap decision to help the girl, and all of a sudden, not only are his marriage and his career in jeopardy, but so is his very life.
When I write, characters and story take precedence over all else. But each story takes place within the context of a certain point in history and a certain culture (or clash of cultures). To make the story work, I invest hours and hours, researching and reconstructing the realities of life in other places and times.
In the case of Pickoff, I introduce readers to American life nearly a hundred years ago. It's certainly recognizable as America, and while certain things (like human nature) remain largely the same, specific life circumstances and ways of viewing life have changed dramatically since then.
My hope is that immersion in a story set in the 1920s will prompt readers to ponder those things that never change as opposed to those that remain in a constant state of flux. My aim is to do this seamlessly, so that the reading experience is satisfying and not at all laborious. If the novel has been delayed in its completion and release, this is the primary reason why.
I hesitate to name a release date for Pickoff. Some aspects of the timeline are out of my hands. My goal, however, is to have the book available to readers before winter's end. In the meantime, I'll strive to keep you updated. If you don't hear from me, though, it's because I'm putting all the time I can into finishing the work as soon as possible.
My best to all of you!