From Publishers Weekly
In his sixth novel, Owen (Fat Lightning; Harry & Ruth) draws on 20 years of experience as a newspaper sports editor to fashion a touching story of fathers, sons and baseball that emphasizes the irrevocable ties of blood. Neil Beauchamp was born to luxury he lived in an actual castle but when he was a child, his mother took him and ran; he even lost his name when his mother married a gruff, marginally successful merchant. Though Neil's baseball talent brings him both wealth and fame, his ego, his lack of business acumen and his fondness for drink bring him down. Already alcoholic and bankrupt when his car strikes and kills a state trooper, the Hall of Famer formerly known as the Virginia Rail goes to prison. As the novel opens, Neil's at rock bottom. He was a lousy husband and a distant father, but upon his release, he is met by his son, David, who's about the last person he expects to see. David, nearing 40, is himself in crisis: he's lost his journalism job in Washington, D.C., and he fears that his marriage is failing and that his wife is having an affair. From prison, David takes Neil back to the castle of his youth, where Neil's half-sister, Blanchard who's mildly unbalanced to say the least has promised to help him start over. Neil wants to make amends, but struggles to figure out how, while David discovers truths about his father that he never could have anticipated. The pace is leisurely, the revelations apt and unexpected and the coverage of professional baseball rings absolutely true.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From the Publisher
In April, when major league baseball resumed, we released Howard Owens sixth novel, "The Rail." Like Owens other fiction (starting with Littlejohn, in 1992 followed by Fat Lightning, Answers to Lucky, The Measured Man, and Harry & Ruth in 2000), the setting is the South, and the focus is on social and interpersonal relationships. One is tempted to call his fiction "Literate Southern Gothic."
Owen, a deputy-managing editor for the Richmond Times-Dispatch and a former sports editor, was always fascinated by the lives of professional athletes who, in their twenties and thirties had adulation and income, but from mid-life on had major adjustments to make. The question being, what becomes of the stars of yesterday?
He attempts to take us into that world in the person of James Beauchamp the "Virginia Rail," an all-star and Hall of Fame hitter whose slide into oblivion began before he turned forty. Its a wonderful novel in terms of delineating complex and tangled family histories that breed certain wounds and their resultant pathologies.
Were introduced to Beauchamp upon his release from prison, for a crime that will not be disclosed until much later on, for this is how Owen hooks us into his leisurely narrative pace. Slow revelations, fine and unexpected timing, rich and wounded characters, all combine to make this a memorable novel that goes far beyond far your usual tales about an athletes rise, fall, and ultimate redemption.