When Raymond Blythe first meets The gods of Baseball, he is a little boy, sitting with his father and watching a game. When he meets them again as an adult, they are playing baseball with giant trees and huge boulders as they invent the game, supervised by the Sun. This begins a magical journey, as Raymond almost simultaneously meets the love of his life, Rochelle Christy, puts together a baseball team, the Winasook Iron Horses, and builds a stadium, Rochelle stadium. The story of the beginning of the fictional Winasook Iron Horses is told in 9 innings (which I loved), and then there are some subsequent stories featuring the team and its owners, weaving in important events of the past. This book combines the history of baseball and the history of America as it is intertwined with a fictional baseball team. In the tradition of W.P. Kinsella, Mark W. Sasse brings the magic of baseball to life. This book about the fictional Iron Horses is told from the point of view of Charles “Shoeshine” Henry, who relates these stories as told to him by Raymond Blythe on his deathbed. The main characters and the team are fictional, but they come to life through the pen of Mark W. Sasse and are interwoven with real life figures from the past.
In order to understand this book, you need not necessarily know all the rules of baseball, but you do need to feel the magic behind it. I have an advantage, as I was 11 years old, growing up in Cincinnati in 1975 when The Big Red Machine won the first of two back-to-back World Series titles. I watched as Pete Rose, who began his career with average talent but almost supernatural determination, hustled to first on fly balls and slid headfirst into second. Through him, the little kids of Cincinnati learned about the rewards of hard work and the magic of determination. Before I digress into an essay about whether or not Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame (he should), let me get back to the task at hand. Mark W. Sasse has created a book that is captivating, remarkable, and full of the American spirit. Rich and carefree, Raymond Blythe is determined to accomplish his goal of creating a baseball team, no matter how crazy he might look. He is also quite mad about his future wife, Rochelle, and that combination of madly in love, determined, and crazy creates magic. The first “nine innings” that feature the creation of baseball, the stadium, Raymond’s marriage, and the team were my favorite. However, subsequent stories take us on further adventures with Raymond, Rochelle, the baseball gods, and the Winasook Iron Horses. Real life baseball heroes Satchell Paige and Jackie Robinson are also featured, along with many other real heroes of the past.
Mark W. Sasse fittingly tips his hat to W.P. Kinsella at the end, as this book, while unique and creative, does bring to mind the late Kinsella’s enchanting novel, Shoeless Joe, which was made into the movie Field of Dreams.
I received a free copy of this book via Booksirens. My review is voluntary.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark W Sasse is a novelist and award-winning playwright and director. He vacillates on a daily basis between which genre of writing he enjoys the most. Luckily, he doesn’t have to choose! Sasse’s novels have been featured on curated sites such as Bookbub and EReaderNewsToday, and his plays have been produced in New York, Penang, Columbus, Kuala Lumpur, and Sydney, Australia, among other places. His play “The Last Bastion” earned him the 2018 Greywood Arts Winter Writing Residency in Ireland. He is also a three-time winner of the Best Script Award at the Penang Short & Sweet Theatre Festival. His plays have won multiple other awards such as Best Overall Performance and Audience Choice Award. He won the Festival Director’s Award at the 2019 and 2016 festivals.
Sasse’s interests cast a wide net – from politics to literature – from culture and language to history and religion, making his writing infused with the unexpected as he seeks to tell authentic and engaging stories about people from all walks of life. His writing is straightforward and accessible to all, especially those who enjoy a page-turning good story injected with doses of history, adventure, Asian culture, and unexpected humor.
Currently, he teaches drama in Saudi Arabia and spends his summers writing in Jamestown, NY.
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