There are writers of historical baseball fiction, and then there is Darryl Brock. There are the rest, and then there is the best.
It’s been more than ten years since the original publication of Havana Heat, Brock’s rollicking second work in the genre. His first novel, If I Never Get Back, published in 1990, was a delightful hit, a fanciful time-travel adventure in which a modern-day fellow is transported back to spend the summer of 1869 on the road with the Cincinnati Red Stockings. Havana Heat is perhaps not as well known, but if anything it’s a better work than If I Never Get Back: a more serious novel, with greater depth and poignancy, dealing with tougher issues.
Havana Heat has just been re-published, this time by the University of Nebraska Press. If you enjoyed it the first time around, then you won’t need my urging to give it a re-read. But if you missed it, this would be a great chance to give yourself a treat. This story’s protagonist is a true historical figure, Luther “Dummy” Taylor, but the plot is entirely fictional. It takes Taylor, the one-time major league pitcher, now 37 years old, on a barnstorming tour of Cuba with John McGraw’s New York Giants, as our hero attempts to pitch his way back into the big time.
There is, of course, more than a bit of color and humor and drama to ensue in such a setting. But there’s also, deftly presented by Brock, a great deal of warmth and sorrow and hard truth.
This is an exceptionally good read. I recommend that you put it on your list.