Tuesday, December 27, 2022

"The Fireballer"

The son of two librarians, Mark Stevens was raised in Lincoln, Massachusetts, and has worked as a reporter, as a national television news producer, and in public relations. Antler Dust was a Denver Post bestseller in 2007 and 2009. Buried by the Roan, Trapline, and Lake of Fire were all finalists for the Colorado Book Award (2012, 2015, and 2016, respectively), and Trapline won. Trapline also won the Colorado Authors League award for best genre fiction. Stevens has had short stories published by Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, by Mystery Tribune, and in Denver Noir (Akashic Books). In September 2016, Stevens was named Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Writer of the Year. Stevens hosts a regular podcast for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and has served as president of the Rocky Mountain chapter for Mystery Writers of America.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Fireballer, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Fireballer is a key moment. The test works (with one caveat below) perfectly.

The issue is how to take maximum advantage of rookie pitching phenom Frank Ryder. His pitches arrive so fast that batters have no time to swing. For Baltimore Orioles manager Art Stone, Ryder is providing a lift to the whole team. Ryder is a lock to win every game he starts.

On page 69 we are in Stone’s office with Ryder, general manager Alicia Ford, and pitching coach Jimmy Lackland.

Ford wants to see what Ryder thinks of starting more games but only pitching a few innings each time out. Ryder is wary. He “hates these manipulators with a passion. They are overthinking everything.” Ryder believes starting pitchers should pitch as long and as hard as they can each time out; nine innings if possible. He’s young, but old-school.

For the Orioles, Ryder is a gift. To the league as whole, Ryder might be the dirty baseball in the punch bowl. If the league doesn’t put an upper limit on the speed of a pitch or move the mound back or do something, who will come to watch a game when batters have no chance to hit?

On page 69, Ryder also thinks about how much he likes his current routine between starts. That routine includes being “on guard for a little stone-faced Black kid with a chip on his shoulder who nobody else can see.”

That kid is Deon. He’s a ghost. And that ghost forms the emotional side of The Fireballer. The larger question is how the emotional side of the novel will impact the baseball side of the novel. Or, for Ryder, are they all the same thing?

That caveat? The Page 69 test described here is for the trade paperback version.

The hardback (also being released January 1)?

Not so much.
Visit Mark Stevens's website.

--Marshal Zeringue