From Publishers Weekly
Shawver's debut follows a failed baseball player and minor league scout who is sent to Cuba to smuggle out a young pitching phenom. Dennis Birch is still bemoaning having lost his position as catcher on a minor league team because of poor performance. He's been working as a scout for six months when he gets the covert assignment-a job for which the credulous Birch (self-described as a man "on whom many things are lost") is perilously unsuited. His contact in Cuba is Charlie Dance. The 400-pound Dance, who has organized the operation, is so repulsive even hookers won't take his money, and so obviously suspicious that even Birch doesn't entirely trust him. The pitching prospect, Ramon Diego Sagasta, is arrogant and not terribly bright, but Birch thinks his incredible skills make him worth risking life and limb for. Naturally, their escape plans go awry, and the Cuban police give chase. The plot unravels somewhat in the last third of the novel. Sagasta disappears, having bought his way out of Cuba himself. Birch remains in the country, where his intrigue with Dance and Sagasta's girlfriend strains credibility. The premise is intriguing, and Shawver's portrait of the astringent Birch and his brewing resentment of Sagasta is believable, though their dialogue often sounds forced. The author also unnecessarily recaps earlier events, slowing the narrative. This likable first effort is sure to find fans among readers of baseball novels, if not a wider audience.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Dennis Birch never made it to major-league baseball. Now he scours the Mexican minors, verifying the bona fides of local phenoms. A last chance for baseball immortality comes his way when he's assigned to smuggle a promising Cuban pitcher across the Caribbean to the Florida Keys. His major-league employer puts him in touch with Charles Dancer, its unofficial representative in rural Cuba. Dancer, who seems to model himself physically and ethically after Sydney Greenstreet in The Maltese Falcon,
fills Birch in on a poorly formed plan to smuggle Ramon Diego Sagasta out of Cuba and into the U.S., where fame and riches await him. Unfortunately, Birch and Sagasta are stymied at every turn by bandits, corrupt officials, and their own foolishness. Even as he forges ahead, Birch comes to understand that greatness, even reflected, is not a quality to which he can aspire. First-novelist Shawver writes with sad passion about small lives swirling aimlessly in search of external verification when perhaps an inward glance is all that's needed. Wes LukowskyCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved