If I Never Get Back

Darryl Brock, Author
Darryl Brock, Author Crown Publishers $18.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-517-57345-7
Reviewed on: 11/28/1989
Release date: 12/01/1989
This highly entertaining, inherently cinematic debut blends two genres, the baseball story and the time-travel fantasy, that have been more at home on screen than on the page. The author wastes no time in establishing (or explaining) his premise; mere pages into the first chapter, Sam Fowler, a discontented journalist whose family life has disintegrated, steps off Amtrak and into 1869. Before he can get his bearings, he's a member of the Cincinnati Red Stockings, witnessing baseball in its infancy with an unbeatable team. Brock steeps his story in period detail, from the smell of kerosene in a railroad car to a daring ``leg show'' in old New York, and devotes long passages to early baseball lore, with play-by-play descriptions that will test the patience of non-fans. As well, he doesn't stint on the anachronistic details that always spark this kind of story: along the way, his hero invents ballpark hotdogs, the scoreboard, ``Red River Valley'' and the bunt. Throw in a century-spanning romance, nefarious gamblers and a cameo by Mark Twain, and the result is a winning fable about dreaming away reality that is both hokey and irresistible. 50,000 first printing; $40,000 ad/promo. (Feb.)
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