John Grisham's Calico Rock, Arkansas?
Of all the unexpected book reviews to peruse, I never expected one about a John Grisham novel to focus on Calico Rock, Arkansas! The last time the 'Rock' got that much attention was when it served as the background to Bootleggers, a film -- not very good -- from my high school days in the early 1970s that proved popular in the Ozarks due to being set in that tiny Ozark town.
Well, the book review is of Grisham's Calico Joe and is written by Los Angeles Times reviewer Chris Erskine, "'Calico Joe' by John Grisham hits for average" (May 19, 2012), a review title hinting that the book isn't great. At any rate, here's the core of the review, the Calico Rock part:
"Calico Joe" is the first-person account of a fictionalized beaning of a Chicago Cubs prodigy by the name of Joe Castle, by way of Calico Rock, Ark. After being called up suddenly by the Cubs, Castle, soon dubbed "Calico Joe," gets off to a roaring start. After 11 games, he has 12 home runs and 14 stolen bases. He's hitting a ridiculous .725 and leading the Cubs to first place in their division (an accomplishment almost as remarkable as a .725 average). The baseball world believes it may be witnessing the next Ty Cobb. Or perhaps his better.Oddly, this rather positive core of the review doesn't seem to fit the review's title. No matter. I'll probably never read the book. No time. It interested me because Calico Rock is in the area where the Cherokee side of my family settled after the Trail of Tears, just upstream from Sylamore, the part of the White River Hills near where resided my part-Cherokee grandmother's Cherokee aunt, Mary Black, who lived in the Sylamore Hills around 1910 in a log cabin without a floor, and who still sat cross-legged on the hard dirt and had jet-black hair at 70, or so my grandma told me.
His story is told by Paul Tracey, son of Warren, a head-hunting power pitcher for the New York Mets who has more losses than wins and more anger than talent. Warren Tracey would be the one to end Joe Castle's career. While a young Paul watches in the stands, Warren aims a fastball at the head of Paul's boyhood hero, sending him into a coma and to the brink of death. In 1973, the storied career of Joe Castle comes to a tragic close after a mere 38 games.
Warren claims the bean ball was unintentional. Paul, a longtime victim of his abusive father's hate-filled tactics, knows better.
Jump ahead almost four decades and Joe Castle is a barely functional high school groundskeeper back in his hometown of Calico Rock; Warren Tracey is dying of cancer. Paul's dream/goal is to see his father apologize to Castle before he dies, an idea that the gruff old former ballplayer scoffs at.
In vintage Grisham fashion -- few authors can build to a crescendo the way he does -- the story picks up pace. Without revealing a rather satisfying ending, he plays good notes on the power of forgiveness, for the son, the dying pitcher and Calico Joe himself.
I credit the LA Times for this review, but I actually read it in this weekend's Korea Herald . . . of all places to find a reference to Calico Rock, for which we can credit the effective fact of Grisham's fame and the circumstantial fact that he hails from Arkansas.