cover image Toss


Boomer Esiason. Dutton Books, $23.95 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-525-94429-4

Former NFL quarterback Esiason teams up with thriller veteran Cauffiel (Marker, etc.) in this passable but undistinguished novel about high-level corruption in the NFL. When ex-Big Ten star quarterback Derek Brody comes to New York to play his first pro season for the (fictional) New York Stars, the team is talented but torn by internecine feuds, which Brody begins to suspect are spurred and manipulated by shady interests outside the locker room. Soon the suspicions gather heft: after Brody meets Stars' ex-quarterback Eric Smith, Smith is murdered, leaving behind incriminating notes on the team's murky doings, notes that his friend Shay Falan passes along to Brody. Brody and Falan team up (eventually romantically) to expose the Stars' seamy underside. The murder of a prostitute at the Stars' training camp, the machinations of entertainment conglomerate Mecca, the team owners' old debt to Howard Hughes and the surprising (benevolent) involvement of the Mob keep the pot boiling to an explosive (literally) climax. Football fans will enjoy details of training camp, football lingo, some mildly interesting onfield scenes and an Animal House-like gross-out at the Plaza Hotel. The book's success will probably hinge on whether NFL fans buy fiction and on Esiason's own record as a rookie announcer on Monday Night Football. Agent: Russell Galen of Scovil Chichak Galen Literary Agency. (Oct.)