cover image Hanging Curve

Hanging Curve

Troy Soos. Kensington Publishing Corporation, $22 (288pp) ISBN 978-1-57566-455-2

Flappers, jazz and Prohibition are often used to evoke the hedonistic 1920s, but Rawlings discovers different hallmarks-- black baseball, the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow and lynchings--for his fine new mystery, which doubles as a cultural and political history. Peripatetic ballplayer Mickey Rawlings carries bat, glove and sleuthing skills from Cincinnati (where he played in his most recent outing, The Cincinnati Red Stalkings) to join the American League's St. Louis Browns for their 1922 season. Using an assumed name to hide his major league identity because of organized baseball's ban on interracial games, Rawlings plays with the semi-pro Elcars against the Negro East St. Louis Cubs as a lark. An ugly confrontation during the game is prologue to the later lynching of the Cubs' star player. Spurred by fear that the volatile situation could lead to a repeat of the terrible race riots of 1917, which left hundreds (mostly blacks) dead in East St. Louis, Rawlings tries to figure out who is behind the murder. In the process, he learns and reveals much about the grim realities behind baseball's ban on black players and also much about himself. Though filled with glimpses of baseball greats from both races and hinging on a well-constructed case of murder, this novel stands out particularly for its skillfully drawn background and intelligent use of historical and social detail. (Oct.)