About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach – How many books a year sweep you up into the story? Books that draw you completely into the plot and lives of the characters. In a good year I hope for a handful. The Art of Fielding is a great book for me. I say for me because, though non-baseball loving readers will enjoy the story, it will resonate most deeply with readers devoted to baseball.

While the book is set in the 21st Century it took me back in my mind to when I was a teenager.

I was drawn in by young Henry Skrimshander, a slight shy teenage shortstop, for a Lankton (obviously modelled on Yankton) South Dakota team whose passion in life is playing shortstop perfectly.

Over 40 years ago I was a slight shy teenage rural Saskatchewan ballplayer who dreamed of playing ball.

Henry has practically memorized The Art of Fielding by Aparicio Rodriguez (clearly Hall of Fame shortstop Luis Aparicio), a book on how to be an infielder by a major league shortstop. The book, filled with advice and aphorisms, reminded me of a real life book, The Art of Hitting .300 by Charlie Lau. Lau was a hitting guru revered by a generation of ballplayers.

When I was growing up on the farm I read everything I could about how to play baseball.

Henry has a glove so prized he can barely stand anyone, even teammates, touching it. He calls the glove “Zero”.

I valued the glove I had as a teenager and used it until the glove was falling apart.

Henry has barely made the team in each level of baseball. Only when coaches see what he can do on the field has he gained a spot on rosters.

I was never good for enough for school teams. I helped found teams so I could play ball.

At a tournament Henry meets Mike Schwartz, a big brash 20 year old catcher from Chicago, who after watching Henry field ground balls, conspires to get Henry admitted to Westish University on the shores of Lake Michigan where they can play together on the Westish ball team. Westish is a small liberal arts university near Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Mike is a born leader who has faced difficult times in his own life. He loves books and baseball. He aspires to be a lawyer.

As I entered university I equally loved books and baseball.

The name of the university sports teams, the Harpooners, comes from a brief association the university had with author, Herman Melville. He had lectured once at the university. The institution honoured him with a statute on campus and chosen to name their teams drawing on Melville’s most famous book.

Moby Dick is one of the world’s great novels. The obsession of Captain Ahab has inspired readers for over 150 years. It is easy to see parallels in the quest undertaken in The Art of Hitting.

At Westish Henry builds his skills and Mike mentors him.

At times I was reminded of baseball classics such as The Natural and Shoeless Joe.

There is a mythic quality to Henry’s pursuit of baseball perfection and the opportunity for a professional career.

Henry and Mike are characters I can visualize on every page. The characters around them are equally memorable.

Neither life nor baseball are easy and the book chronicles the challenges as pressure mounts from Henry’s growing streak of errorless games and the relationships of various characters become complex.

It is Harbach`s great skill as a writer that he can make the coming of age experiences of Henry and Mike focused on baseball vivid and real. Harbach further adds interest and complexity to the plot with other characters. The book is rich in the university atmosphere and relationships outside baseball.

I primarily read crime fiction. I have not ventured into much sports fiction. It is hard to find a credible sports story with interesting athletes that has a balance between the too simplistic and too complicated. Last year and this year my son, Jonathan, has provided me with a memorable book that meets those requirements. In 2013 it was The Silver Linings Playbook. This year I thank him for providing me with The Art of Fielding.

Both Henry and Mike take me back to my youth. Henry is the ballplayer I could have been if I had superior athletic talent and Mike the popular captain with academic skills that I might have been with a different personality.


  1. I don't suppose I will read this book (though it does sound good), and I don't really understand baseball, but I loved reading your review, and your sharing with us the resonances it had for you. Thank you, Bill.

    1. Moira: Thanks for the comment and kind words.. It's never too late to start loving baseball!. Baseball is a special game to me.

  2. Bill - Baseball is one of those sports that inspire that kind of devotion. And I'm not surprised that this baseball story resonated with you; baseball is also one of those unifying things that just draws so many disparate people together. I'm glad you enjoyed this book as much as you did, and thanks for sharing your own experiences.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I can see you cheering in the bleachers with a nifty cap perched on your curls! Major League baseball teams now have players from many different countries.

  3. Bill, your comments may make me finally dig into this book, which I bought right after it was published. Lots of pro and con reviews. I also played shortstop and have one of my early gloves in a case behind me in my office. Granny Hamner and Harvey Kuenn were my two favourite shortstops along with Solly Drake, who played in the ManDak League and then went to the majors as an outfielder. I have a large collection of sports fiction so one of these days I's send your some titles you should try. As for baseball mysteries, have you read Troy Soos, Crabbe Evers or L. L. Enger?

    1. Kent: Thanks for the comment. I hope you read The Art of Hitting and pass on your comments. There is a relationship between a ballplayer and their glove unlike any other athlete / equipment connection. I have not read any of the mystery authors mentioned. My baseball mystery fiction has been limited to Alison Gordon.

  4. I enjoyed your memories of your own background, and your passion for the subject makes me want to read this book, even though I also don't usually pick up sports titles. "The Silver Linings Playbook" is also on my TBR list.

    FYI, I added your post to Patti Abbotti's FFB links for the week. Here's the permalink:


    1. BV: Thanks for the comment and adding the book to FFB. I hope you get to read the book. While the baseball theme drew me there are several other interesting subplots not involving baseball.

  5. My brother loved this book and let me borrow his copy though I've yet to get deeply into it. I loved your review though and that may make me move THE ART OF FIELDING up a few levels on my TBR pile. Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm. I love baseball too. :) I even know who Luis Aparicio was. Didn't he have brothers who were also major leaguers? It was kind of like the Molina clan of today.

    1. Yvette: Thanks for the comment.I think you will find reading The Art of Fielding worth moving it up the TBR pile.

      I think the brother combination you were thinking of was the Alou brothers. Matty, Jesus and Felipe all played in the majors. Felipe's son Moises also was a major leaguer.

      Who is your favourite team? I am partial to the Blue Jays.

  6. I like to watch on TV baseball and basketball. Baseball is not hard to understand. Maybe rules to strike out or walk a hitter are complicated, but it's usually obvious. And commentators are always explaining this stuff.

    But watching and seeing a home run. Everyone in the room stands and screams. Then one hears people doing same up and down your block, honking horns. City fun.

    I love Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays and the heroes of the4 same.

    1. Kathy D.: Thanks for the comment. What a special big city experience. I have never been in a city where you could hear people in the block celebrating a big play during the game.