Baseball fans know that a knuckler is hard to hit because of its unpredictability. Knuckleball, indeed, keeps you guessing with plot twists aplenty. Unlike the pitch it is fast-paced and written in a brisk, no-nonsense style that moves the story forward fluidly and with a sense of urgency. I read the book out loud to my wife Sue over the weekend and found it easy to catch the rhythm of the prose and get in tune with the dialogue. In the acknowledgments at the front of the book Pitts mentions that the Bryan Stow incident was an "impetus" for his tale. Like Oscar, we watch baseball because it isn't real life. The adventures on the field give us a play space where we can see failure and triumph, disaster and achievement, and we can live these things vicariously. Sometimes, though, real life intrudes. The tragic event in LA where Mr. Stow was brutally beaten was one of those things. That event and others like it remind us we can never entirely be free of our connections to society and our world's problems. Knuckleball lives on that edge as every character seeks escape from the humdrum and the complications of daily life but all of them are enmeshed, like all of us, in a web of relationships and responsibilities.
In good crime fiction it is not the acts of violence that matter but their consequences. On TV we get used to seeing the bad guys get caught and the story wrapped up neatly at the end of the hour. Knuckleball makes things more complicated than that. It deals with the aftermath of the killing and its impact on families, a department, and a city. Tragedies bring out the heroic in some and the venal in others and everyone in the story has something to gain from Officer Patterson's killing. Penetrating and realistic but without being cynical, Mr. Pitts manages to poke us in the eye and make us look again and think twice about life in the big, bad world. That's what all good art should do, eh? Throw in the Giants and San Francisco and you have a real winner!
Knuckleball will be released on March 24th. I'm sure you have a loved one with a birthday coming up soon--surprise them with good book.