Thursday, August 1, 2019

Book Review: 'Welcome to the Show: A Mickey Tussler Novel, Book 3' by Frank Nappi

Now and then along comes an author whose ability to connect with a reader's mind creates a bond that is lasting. So it is with the very fine American author Frank Nappi. This reader was deeply touched by Nappi's 2005 debut novel ECHOES FROM THE INFANTRY, and when his next book was released, THE LEGEND OF MICKEY TUSSLER, the following review resulted: `Not being a baseball fan or even knowing much about the game or the cheering throngs who have made the sport part of the definition of 'America', this reader approached this novel with some hesitation, believing that if Frank Nappi could write so powerfully in ECHOES FROM THE INFANTRY, then surely this book deserves reading. And, once again, Frank Nappi has demonstrated his polished skills as a writer. Yes, the story is about baseball with all the excitement, romance, and obsession that sport engenders, but it is so much more. This story is about overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds of physical afflictions that will serve as a comforting and challenging guide to readers familiar with those struggling with autism among other differences.'

To address the Tussler from the start, Arthur Murphy is our baseball manager guide through this 1940s tale of the rise of Mickey Tussler, a Wisconsin farm boy of only 17 years of age whose problems with autism produced abusive reactions not only from his father but from nearly everyone with whom he came into contact. That is, until Arthur Murphy discovers his natural gifts as a pitcher extraordinaire and places him on the mound with the Milwaukee Brewers - and a legend is born. This could have been the end-all as a success story in other writers' hands, but Nappi fleshes out this tale with all manner of intrigue, love affairs, and examples of human behavior run amuck in the presence of one person with 'differences'. His characters are three dimensional, credible and stay with us as Nappi spins his story to conclusion. Part 2, SOPHOMORE CAMPAIGN opened where the previous Tussler book left off - Arthur Murphy is devastated about the loss of the last game of his Milwaukee Brewers with the Rangers, a loss he attributes to the unfortunate turn of events in Mickey Tussler's life. Murphy had devoted his life to bringing the autistic Tussler to a role of success as a pitcher, and he is determined to place the emotionally injured Tussler back into the game. And as if this weren't enough of a challenge, Murphy brings on Lester Sledge, an African American player (remember the time frame - this is in the 1940s when baseball teams were `segregated') so once again the Brewers are the focus of derision and hatred from inside and out, but the miracle Nappi's creates is using this new focal `man with challenges' to allow Mickey Tussler to face, cope, and understand that part of the world's prejudice against people with differences.

And now, with WELCOME TO THE SHOW, ‘it’s 1950 and Mickey Tussler—the now-famous pitching prodigy with autism and a golden arm—is back for another baseball season Talk of Mickey’s legendary exploits on the field has grown since his improbable debut two years prior, as have the fortunes of Murph and the rest of the lovable ragtag Brew Crew. Now Mickey, Murph, and Lester find themselves heading to Bean Town to play for the Boston Braves. The call up is sweet, for all of them have overcome insurmountable odds to get where they are. But life in the major leagues is filled with fast-paced action both on and off the field. The bright lights of Boston hold a new series of challenges, hardships, and life lessons—especially for Mickey, who finds himself a long way from throwing apples into a barrel back on the farm. The three newest Braves have each other to lean on, as well as a new group of fans who are swept away by pennant fever, but balancing everything this new world has to offer may prove to be the greatest challenge of all.’

Frank Nappi has established himself as a superlative author, able to explore so many regions of human glory and despair, gifts and challenges, and yet his stories always are uplifting - a gift Frank owns. Another very fine novel from a new master. Grady Harp, April 16

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.