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Final Round Paperback – November 11, 2016
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About the Author
Ross Barrett is a retired physicist, with research experience in nuclear physics, sonar technology and underwater acoustics. He has recently published a book, with two co-authors, on physics for non-specialists entitled: Physics: the Ultimate Adventure, Springer, 1916. In 1987 he commenced writing for the stage, and seven of his plays have been produced in professional partnerships in Adelaide. One of these was selected as the best new South Australian play of the year in 1994 by "The Advertiser", the local city newspaper. Final Round, which is based on his stage play with the same name, is his first novel. He is married, and lives in Adelaide.
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From the very first line of his contemporary novel about life, death and purpose, author Ross Barrett has us hooked. There’s something distinctively compelling that occurs when playwrights apply their gifts of dialogue and character development to a different medium, and FINAL ROUND is clearly no exception. The book, in fact, was originally conceived as a stage play, and I believe its small cast and minimalist execution in the setting of an Australian hospital room lend themselves well to unpeeling the layers of its core players—Dave, Sol and Sarah.
Barrett captures well the irony that hospitals represent a true microcosm of society. In essence, one never knows who, exactly, s/he will end up involuntarily sharing a room with.
For Sol—a trucker who can physically go the distance but seems dangerously proficient at navigating himself into dead-end relationships—the last person in the world he wants to spend any time with is his wise-cracking, button-pushing roomie, Dave. The accident that put Sol into the hospital in the first place and with a messed up leg is little more than a blur at the novel’s start. Or was it really an accident at all?
Dave, a former journalist and war correspondent, has seen enough human ugliness up close and personal during his stints in the Middle East that he has retreated to the “safety” of penning cheap, formulaic romance novels that don’t require any insertion of personal feelings. With a career and a marriage that ended in close proximity to one another, a recurring health crisis is just the frosting on a cake that Dave has long since lost the taste for.
Adding to the tense equation is a young nurse named Sarah who has been assigned both men as her combative patients and often finds herself the object of unbidden flirtation. Sarah, of course, has demons of her own. Not only has she entered the off-limits zone of caring too much for patients in her charge, she is also questioning whether she’s in a relationship with long-term potential or will never be more than a decorative appendage to her current doctor-beau.
Behind a screen in the same hospital room is a fourth character named Algy. Though he never engages in the excessive war of words that are the signature of Sol and Dave’s relationship, he is nonetheless a lynchpin that reminds both men of their own fleeting mortality.
The pacing throughout the book is swift, crisp and, again, reflective of its theatrical origins. Barrett also excels at shifting from one character’s perspective to another as well as introducing necessary back-story for each character that doesn’t encumber the forward momentum of the plot. It is a story that doesn’t just draw the reader into the frustration of three relatable people who realize they haven’t achieved their full potential; it also invites the reader to examine his or her own accomplishments, dreams and fears and to approach each new day as a clean slate on which something remarkable might be written.