Spokane, WA, United States | Member Since 2005
A Game Changer
I first read Ball Four as a kid when it first came out and caused such a stir. It changed the way I thought about sports, and the stories inspired me to look for the real stories behind the scenes and not the glossy, front-office-authorized fluff that passed for sports memoirs before Jim Bouton set the genre on its ear.
I have spent countless hours as a sports writer listening to athletes tell stories. My favorite hours have been spent at baseball training camp, listening to coaches and former players telling their stories. Jim Bouton reading his own book is as close as the casual listener can get to that experience. For a baseball fan, it's a true gift.
My heart broke as Jim described the death of his daughter and the emotional return he made to Yankee Stadium that grew out of that deep family tragedy. It is gut-wrenching, it is deeply personal, and it is as raw and real as it gets.
Listen to this book, then go pound some Budweiser.
I recommend this to anyone and everyone. The novel, combined with The Winds of War, is Herman Wouk's masterpiece. And Kevin Pariseau's narration is outstanding in every way. Th work and artistry he puts into every character is masterful.
You must look at the two epic novels together. Winds of War starts the story of the Henry family through the lead-in to World War II up to the attack on Pearl Harbor, and War and Remembrance takes them through the entirety of the war and even hints at their life after the war.
I loved the way he characterizes FDR, with the jaunty lilt we've come to expect from Roosevelt on screen.
Since this book comes in seven parts, I doubt anyone can sit that long willingly. But it does inspire you to spend long, relaxing hours listening, and makes you want to sneak in a few minutes whenever you can.
As crime stories go, this is pretty good. The problem lies in where the bar is set for this series. Spenser is an American icon and Robert B. Parker was the absolute master of the genre. His use of language was lean and spare, yet packed a punch comparable to Spenser's right cross, and his literary voice was unmistakeable. Asking another writer to pick up his mantle is like asking someone to carry for Hemingway. If you're a casual ran of the genre and aren't overly familiar with Parker, this is a worthy listen. If, like me, you loved Parker's novels and waited for each new Spenser novel the way a child awaits Christmas, then this is a frustrating listen. A Spenser novel is like great jazz. Atkins knows all the notes and he plays them well. But they aren't his notes and it's not his solo he's riffing on. When you listen, you keep telling yourself "That's not Coltrane." With this listen, that same thought kept coming to me: That's not Parker. And I don't mean that as a knock on Ace Atkins. His books, with his own characters, are excellent and I enjoy them -- because he writes them with his own literary voice. Taking over for a master artist is a thankless task, and as efforts to carry on a legend go, this is a worthy effort. But by definition, any such effort is missing that master's touch.
This didn't have that Parker ending, but it was good.
Joe Mantegna was my favorite narrator for Parker's novels. It was a great pairing -- equal to the incredible pairing of James Lee Burke's words and Will Patton's narration. You hear echoes of that great Parker-Mantegna chemistry as he reads this book. He does a wonderful job. But it's not Parker.
It inspired me to go back and listen to the original Spenser novels again. And it inspired me to go looking for more of Ace Atkins' novels. Not sure it inspired me to buy the next effort in this series. This one reminded me of how much we all lost when Parker passed away, and how much this genre owes to its now past master.
I did try making the dish Atkins described early in the book: sweet potatoes, andouille sausage and onions sautéed together with a little real maple syrup and a hint of brown sugar. It was delicious. I added some granny smith apple to mine the second time I made it and it was exceptional.
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