Barney Polan's Game: A Novel of the 1951 College Basketball Scandals

Charles Rosen, Author Seven Stories Press $23.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-888363-56-2
Rosen, whose first novel, The House of Moses All-Stars, was highly praised, returns to the subject of his 1978 nonfiction Scandals of '51, this time in a penetrating fictional portrait of the men (and woman) who conspired to corrupt college basketball. Beginning with Brooklyn sportswriter Barney Polan, a self-described ""champion of the underdog"" who ""looks like what sportswriters are supposed to look like,"" Rosen tells the story from multiple points of view, shifting back and forth as the corruption deepens and comes to light. Gangster Johnny Boy Gianelli and his moll, Rosie, are at the center of the scam, offering cash and sex to New York players who agree to maintain point spreads and even throw games while coaches and referees look the other way. Rosen's multi-voiced prose rings true as Jewish, Catholic and black players all find themselves involved--some eagerly, some reluctantly--in a complex conspiracy to defraud each other and save themselves. Wisely keeping the games in the background to build suspense, Rosen works from inside the heads of each of his characters, who bring to life such darker elements of the time as McCarthyism, the Korean War and racial tension. No special knowledge of the game is required to appreciate this very engaging novel (Rosen clearly relishes his historical expositions as much as the story itself). Even readers who are not basketball fans will have a hard time putting it down before the final buzzer. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 07/01/2003
Release date: 07/01/2003
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 264 pages - 978-0-15-600688-0
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