Author: David O Stewart
Type of book: Baseball, Babe Ruth, 1920s, interracial romance, white female/black male, mystery, money, portrayal of Jews, society, prohibition, scandal
Year it was published: 2016
“David O. Stewart is rapidly becoming one of our best new writers of historical mysteries . . . [Fraser and Cook] have plenty of fraught challenges, but none more engaging and human than the swaggering, generous, profligate Great Bambino.”
—Washington Times, September 22, 2016
As the Roaring Twenties get under way, corruption seems everywhere—from the bootleggers flouting Prohibition to the cherished heroes of the American Pastime now tarnished by scandal. Swept up in the maelstrom are Dr. Jamie Fraser and Speed Cook . . .
Babe Ruth, the Sultan of Swat, is having a record-breaking season in his first year as a New York Yankee. In 1920, he will hit more home runs than any other team in the American League. Larger than life on the ball field and off, Ruth is about to discover what the Chicago White Sox players accused of throwing the 1919 World Series are learning—baseball heroes are not invulnerable to scandal. With suspicion in the air, Ruth’s 1918 World Series win for the Boston Red Sox is now being questioned. Under scrutiny by the new baseball commissioner and enmeshed with gambling kingpin Arnold Rothstein, Ruth turns for help to Speed Cook—a former professional ballplayer himself before the game was segregated and now a promoter of Negro baseball—who’s familiar with the dirty underside of the sport.
Cook in turn enlists the help of Dr. Jamie Fraser, whose wife Eliza is coproducing a silent film starring the Yankee outfielder. Restraint does not come easily to the reckless Ruth, but the Frasers try to keep him in line while Cook digs around.
As all this plays out, Cook’s son Joshua and Fraser’s daughter Violet are brought together by a shocking tragedy. But an interracial relationship in 1920 feels as dangerous as a public scandal—even more so because Joshua is heavily involved in bootlegging. Trying to protect Ruth and their own children, Fraser and Cook find themselves playing a dangerous game . . .
Once again masterfully blending fact and fiction, David O. Stewart delivers a nail-biting historical mystery that captures an era unlike any America has seen before or since in all its moral complexity and dizzying excitement.
Main characters include Dr. Jamie Fraser who, yes, happens to be a doctor. He is married with a daughter named Violet and seems to have enjoyed Babe Ruth's new movie and is also loyal to his friend Speed Cook, although at times it sounds as if the friendship was strained. His wife Eliza is old fashioned and is uncomfortable with people who are different than she is, although she is also a bit tempermental and I imagine her as a diva of sorts. Violet is their daughter who becomes involved with Joshua. Aside from being uninhibited and loyal to Joshua, I feel that not much is known about her. Speed Cook is best described as resourceful and very dedicated to baseball and sees a lot of potential in Babe Ruth. I think that out of all the characters, Joshua is the one that has most of the personality and he is also resourceful, uninhibited, daring, calculated and someone who enjoys challenges.
It's amazing how various aspects of life tie up together
The story is in third person narrative from Jamie's, Speed's and Joshua's points of view, although once in a while Babe Ruth or Arnold Rothstein do make an appearance. The writer is more concerned with focusing on the present rather than exploring origins of why some groups of people are outcasts, and although an interracial romance is featured and is explored, I feel that it's not explored as deeply as one hopes. While I'm pretty sure the baseball games were recreated faithfully, I was lost in what was going on when it came to baseball games, although I enjoyed the attention the author has paid to details of 1920s.
David O. Stewart, formerly a lawyer, writes fiction and history. His first historical work told the story of the writing of the Constitution (“The Summer of 1787”). It was a Washington Post Bestseller and won the Washington Writing Prize for Best Book of 2007. His second book (“Impeached”), grew from a judicial impeachment trial he defended before the United States Senate in 1989. “American Emperor: Aaron Burr’s Challenge to Jefferson’s America” explored Burr’s astounding Western expedition of 1805-07 and his treason trial before Chief Justice John Marshall. “Madison’s Gift: Five Partnerships That Built America” debuted in February 2015. He has received the 2013 History Award of the Society of the Cincinnati and the 2016 William Prescott Award for History Writing from the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America.
Stewart’s fiction career began with the release of “The Lincoln Deception,” an historical novel exploring the John Wilkes Booth conspiracy. “The Wilson Deception,” the sequel, is set at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. “The Babe Ruth Deception” occurs during the Babe’s first two years with the Yankees while he remade baseball and America began the modern era with Prohibition, bootlegging, and terrrorism.
Stewart lives with his wife in Maryland. Visit his website at www.davidostewart.com.
I haven't read the previous two mysteries that feature Dr. Jamie Fraser and Speed Cook, but I'm happy to say that this reads as a stand-alone novel rather than a sequel. I admit that I felt discomfort at the idea of a white author writing about African-American characters, but from what I can see, he writes respectfully and crafts a believable background for Speed Cook's son and how he became the way he has. Although I understand the validity of portraying less than savory aspects of history such as racism or how Jews were treated, I still reserve the right of feeling sad and uncomfortable with the portrayal. While the story touches on various aspects be it romance, baseball, Babe Ruth and so forth, it focuses wholly on the mystery rather than going into origins of racism or of why some characters met up with unsavory Jews. For a fun mystery and something that focuses on life in 1920s, its a good read. Also, yes, one does need knowledge of baseball to enjoy the book because I had no idea of what was going on when it came to baseball games.
This is for HFVBT
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4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)