Baseball franchise moves can break your heart.
Mark Weber, President & CEO of the St. Louis Cardinals, thought he had landed his dream job. Little did he know it would turn into a nightmare shortly after management changes at the parent company Rheinhold Brewing Company.
Christina Rheinhold, newly installed President & CEO of the company that bears her name, is anxious to keep the small brewery afloat. What better way than to shed nonbeer assets? Especially if you don’t even care about the team, purchased by her father when In-Bev acquired Anheuser-Busch, and they were also in an off-loading situation. Christina [is] well aware of the 125-year-plus tradition of the team in St. Louis, but it [is] very tempting to sell the team to out-of-town parties for top dollar.
Can Mark, with the help of natural and even supernatural support, save the team for the city and its fans?
Baseball! So many different aspects of my life seem to tell me I should brush up on my (nearly nonexistent) knowledge of the sport. I spent my middle and high school years abroad in a country where baseball doesn’t exist, which probably explains why I know so little about the sport—including its history and its significance to Americans today. There are some similarities across sports: baseball and cricket, for example, are both considered “gentlemen’s sports” in that competition coexists with camaraderie, and umpires are as important as the players, their calls are of the utmost importance, and sassing an umpire is as gross a misdemeanor as exists. In many other ways, though, baseball and the culture that has formed around it is utterly unique. In A Sense of Urgency, Patrick McLean captures much of the detail and texture of daily life with baseball and infuses his book with the spirit of the same.
Like the sport itself, A Sense of Urgency is a dialogue-driven read. Thumb your way through the book, and you’re liable to land on a series of pages where most of the text printed on that page is spoken aloud by one character or another. McLean is somewhat unusual in this—in writing, I mean. My personal addiction when writing is to scenic description (sometimes, I think it’s all I know how to write), which was fairly common among the writers I became acquainted with back in college. There are also plenty of authors addicted to what you might call the Infodump, or worldbuilding, without much action in some genres. In moderation, both worldbuilding and scenic description can be useful. Still, as most of you can probably attest, something needs to happen in a book to keep the momentum going and readers engaged. Too much summary description of the action as it unfolds can come off as distant. (“He ran, then he stopped. He ate a sandwich. Then he moved to Alaska to learn how to muster sled dogs.”) It’s almost as if some writers (me included) can completely forget about the power of dialogue—but not Patrick McLean.
One of the benefits of a dialogue-driven book is that it doesn’t come off as teasing or deliberately disingenuous to withhold certain information until the critical moments in which those details are essential. A third-person omnipresent narrator, however, knows everything the character knows and can therefore be something of a tease in books that depend on the timing of those details for plot momentum and reader interest. (For example, if an author knows that it was Lady Scarlett in the dining room with the candlestick but asks me to consider the butler and Colonel Mustard as primary suspects, I start to wonder what else the narrator is hiding from me. And then I start skimming ahead. Because sometimes, I’m a very impatient reader! Whoops.) With dialogue, though, an author is fully justified in only conveying what the characters know or are willing to share at the moment since their voices are the only (or at least the dominant) voices on the page. This comes in very handy in A Sense of Urgency.
Dialogue also conveys personality and regionality like no other text can. Speech patterns, dialect, and idioms tell people who we are when we speak, more than our clothes and résumés since we can put on costumes and brag as much as we like. However, how we communicate and talk to each other will always reveal who we are underneath the affectations and behavioral habits we acquire.
When it comes to plot, there’s not much I can tell you about A Sense of Urgency that’s not already in the description without spoiling key details. Still, as the omnipresent narrator of this review, I’m going to tease you with hints at what you’ll discover when you crack open a copy for yourself. McLean’s command of the details is exquisite. (Who wears loafers without socks??! Who are these people? My mother would be mortified if she were caught out of doors without socks in her sneakers. I, meanwhile, wear sandals until the snow is thicker than the soles of my sandals. Then I switch to boots. I do not loaf. You’ll have to read on to discover why this is important in the book.)
The little things aren’t always little in this book. But that could also be a hint of misdirection; a Colonel Mustard moment of mine, if you will. (See? Don’t you hate it when a narrator tortures you? McLean doesn’t do this thanks to his dialogue-driven approach.) The Cardinals are more than just a team. Security is called to escort people out . . . and there are several moments where things get “a little dicey,” to steal an expression from the book. There’s plenty of drama to go around. But I won’t embarrass myself by trying to replicate McLean’s command of how baseball works and will simply state, instead, that this is a book focused on the game and what the game makes possible in the lives of those involved in it.
If you like baseball, or even if you know nothing about baseball but enjoy seeing just desserts dished out by knowledgeable and passionate characters, this is a book to add to your reading list.
While the world keeps reminding me that Americans play baseball and not cricket, A Sense of Urgency pairs the sport with storytelling bound to appeal to fans and newcomers alike. And yes, Patrick McLean really does convey . . . a sense of urgency . . . in this compelling slice of life narrative.
WHERE TO BUY?
Learn more about Patrick McLean’s work on the book’s Outskirts Press author page.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
* Courtesy of Outskirts Press book listing.